It is a custom that at the beginning of a new political leader – at least in those countries who elect legitimate leaders through a democratic process – people expect them to place before them their intentions, methods and goals which they hope will be the hallmark of their leadership. In the Gospel we hear Jesus placing before the people his intentions. Matthew and Mark have Jesus briefly state his intention thus: “Repent and believe in the good news, for the kingdom of Heaven (God) is close at hand’ [Mark1:14; Matthew 4:17].
Luke has a broader statement: ‘The spirit of the Lord is on me…’ [4:18-19]. From all three Gospels we receive the impression that Jesus is heralding not only a new message but also a new era. After claiming that the people need to repent because of the closeness of the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew has Jesus expand on the meaning of that statement, which begins with today’s Gospel passage – the Beatitudes [Matthew 5:1-12]. Jesus, according to Matthew, is the new Moses bringing about a new Law, one which in using the Torah as its basis presents the world with a new series of challenges, which will be expanded upon over three chapters of his Gospel. The ‘blessedness’ that is referred to in the Beatitudes calls for a certain spirit by which a person can live. It calls for a particular way of viewing the world and of acting in it. The fact that each of the statements begins with the expression: ‘Blessed are…’ suggests that to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be gentle etc. is a cause for rejoicing. In order to appreciate the fundamental significance of the values presented in the Beatitudes, we may need to hear them in a different way:
|Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (v.3).||The immense happiness and joy of the person who realises their own helplessness, while taking the risk of placing their complete trust in God, for they will be prepared to live in complete obedience and surrender to the One who calls them to be a citizen of the Kingdom here and now.|
|Blessed are the meek (gentle), for they shall inherit the world. (v.4).||The immense happiness and joy of those who can always be angry and the correct time, and those who are never angry at the wrong time. These are the people who can be capable of having every instinct, impulse and passion under control, simply because they allow themselves to be God-controlled. These are the people who will have the humility to realise their own ignorance, need for growth and weaknesses.|
|Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (v. 5).||The immense happiness and joy of those whose hearts are touched and moved by the brokenness and suffering of the world and people around them, because out of their sorrow and empathy they will experience the joy, presence and mercy of their God.|
|Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (v. 6).||The immense happiness and joy of those who long for the total righteousness of God’s ways, as one who is starving longs for food and as one whose throat is parched longs for water, for they will be satisfied|
|Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them (v. 7).||The immense happiness and joy of those who are able to reach inside of the lives of those around them: who are able to see with the eyes of others, to hear with the ears of others, to think with the thoughts of others, to feel with the thoughts of others. These people will find the joy of knowing what God has achieved in the life of his Son, Jesus Christ, and have the courage to live in the same way.|
|Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God (v. 8).||The immense happiness and joy of those who can act and live with pure intentions in every relationship – and not seek self-satisfaction by manipulating and controlling others and events. These people will be living the God life.|
|Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called the sons and daughters of God (v. 9).||The immense happiness and joy of those who are able to produce the right rela-tionship between people. These people will be truly doing God’s work.|
|Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of righteousness: the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (v. 10)||The immense happiness and joy of those who are prepared to be moved and dis-turbed by the elements of their faith. These people will have the courage to live the life of the Gospel values in imitation of the life of Jesus, and not be frightened if that life will bring them pain, suffering and isolation.|
These values form the basis of the life of the disciple. Without these values we cannot live the life of the kingdom, let alone bring it to fruition.
Fr Robert Bossini
Dean and Parish Priest