‘Blessed are the merciful’

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | October 27, 2021

“They’re closing the distribution center where I work.” The speaker was a woman attending a workshop I gave recently. We were talking about the current economic situation and, in particular, how it was affecting people in the area.

She, along with dozens of others, finds herself in a “time of great distress.” The focus of my presentation was the Real Presence as Catholic Christians understand and celebrate it. As an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, prior to COVID she often shared “the blood of the Lamb.” But, in these difficult times, she is experiencing in a new way what we mean when we speak of Christ’s blood outpoured.

“We’ve had to let most of our servers go.” This time the speaker was the owner of a small restaurant in the area. The previous week she said she had to tell her employees that fear of COVID has resulted in fewer diners and a reduction in hours. She told them that she would be available to help them with résumé preparation and assured them that she would be happy to provide references and recommendations if that would be helpful. “How did they take it?” I asked. “Pretty well,” she said. “In fact, most of them even participated in a previously-planned staff party and boat trip on a local lake, even though they aren’t working for me any longer.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “Blessed are they who mourn.” “Blessed are the merciful.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Every day, businesses close their doors; every day, people face COVID. People are hurting. It is a “time of great distress.” Even as the stock market struggles to find its footing, dishonest and greedy people continue to benefit from past corruption.

But there are other people. The managers of the distribution center, local business owners and many more like them endeavor to help their employees. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” “Blessed are the merciful.” Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of All Saints. Look around. That person in front of you in line at the grocery store just might be a saint traveling incognito.

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.

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