Last week when we got back to Dili we had to renew our visas. Part of that involved a trip to the Ministry of Finance, the only multi-story building in the country. The ministry is a towering, architecturally modern building made of glass and shining steel. Inside, it’s clean, air-conditioned and opulent. Out front, brown marble steps descend to the Ministériu da Finances sign embellished with a fountain and beautiful potted flowers for trim. But from these steps one looks out on hundreds of rusty, corrugated iron shacks where thousands of Timorese live crammed into small houses with dirt floors. From day to day they struggle to find water for washing and cooking, not to mention food for eating.
Against this reality we have Jesus’s Blessings and Woes:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh….
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when people speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”
The text is consolation for the people in the shacks, which is the vast majority of Timorese. They are those who are excluded from the world’s “goodies” and are thus literally hungry on a daily basis. But the Gospel insists that the future God will bring will be different. Tears will turn to laughter and hunger pangs to satiation. Holy Communion anticipates and celebrates this eschatological reality. Each time we Commune with Christ through the bread and wine we are thus invited to reflect on the world’s realities and to take sides with the oppressed. World Communion Sunday is therefore not simply about the unity of the worldwide body of Christ, although it is that. It’s also about the hungry oppressed people with whom Jesus is always identified.