Through out history there are memorable speeches, talks, and presentations. I assume most of us have been to a conference where the speaker was spell-binding. We were not able to take the time to record our notes as the presentation touched our soul to a depth rarely reached. We look back at the address by President Kennedy-"do not ask what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country". Martin Luther King Jr.----the famous "I have a dream" speech where the vision for all people was crystal clear in his mind.
A beatitude is the declaration of blessedness on the ground of some virtue or good fortune. The formula begins, "Blessed is..." It occurs 26 times in the Psalms; 8 times in Proverbs; 10 times in the Hebrew books of the Old Testament and 13 times in the Greek books of the Old Testament. In the New Testament it most frequently refers to faith or for sharing in the kingdom of God. In today's reading from Matthew there is a paradox as the "Blessedness" is in relation not to what is perceived as a good but a misfortune. People may be blessed if they accept this "misfortune" as coming from God and only God can fill the perceived void in their life.
Today we hear from the Gospel of Matthew what has been called The Beatitudes---which is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus does not mince words but rather uses an economy of words to cut to the core of his message. All of the words of Jesus are important to us as we each walk our way in this life---walking toward the light---trying to find our way.
It is very tempting to sit back as we hear the Gospel today and simply say to ourselves, "Oh, the beatitudes reading-I already know that." However it is more challenging for me to not only "hear" the reading but truly "LISTEN" and deeply reflect on what Jesus is saying to the disciples: because He is not just speaking to the disciples of long ago but speaking to me today. I need to reflect on the meaning the beatitudes has for me today.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT. Today a person is able to buy almost anything using a credit card. It almost makes money irrelevant. Of course the bills must be paid. With the glut of "things" we are able to buy---all promising to fill some void in our life, how does one become poor in spirit. Is it even possible in today's society to get to the point in your life where you can honestly say, "I do not NEED any THING." I remember seeing an interview on T.V. a few years ago. The topic was about the tax cuts being proposed and ultimately passed by Congress. The interviewer and the person being interviewed were both very wealthy. The person being interviewed simply said in answer to a question, "You and I do not need a tax cut---we can not responsibly spend what we have". Perhaps Jesus means to become a person who depends on him and his message of service as providing the ultimate meaning to our life; rather buying another "thing" to try to fill the void in our life.
BLEESED ARE THEY WHO MOURN. To mourn is to grieve the loss which is irreplaceable in this life; perhaps the loss of material treasures (pictures and other mementoes) of our human relationships. However the ultimate mourning is the loss of those very human relationships which have given meaning to our life. To be present when the lid of the casket is closed is almost unbearable. It is the closing of a chapter in our life which will not be continued. It is at these times that our faith is the only sustaining relationship---our relationship with the mercy and compassion of God ---which will give any comfort.
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS. Are you a peacemaker? Are you a "hawk" or a "dove? Who is a peacemaker? War in any generation is always a hot topic for discussion. My early adult life---the mid 60's and early 70's was the ear of the Vietnam War. Some in our community served admirably in that conflict. Today we have another war. I was on-call at the hospital New Year's Eve this past year. At 1:54 a.m. New Year's Day the pager went off. I called the hospital as was told, "We have a code Yellow in the Emergency Room---a stabbing." When I arrived in the E.R. I found a young man who had been stabbed multiple times in his back and stomach. He had returned from Iraq a month ago. He was a sergeant in the Army. He and his parents were at the local AM Vets. for a simple New Year's Eve celebration. As they left 3 men jumped him and began stabbing him. He was conscious and would survive the stabbings---which were many and some very deep. I talked with him, his parents, and brother. We prayed together. His biggest concern was that he get stitched up so he could return to his base that night January 1st by midnight as he was to ship out to Afghanistan January 5th. He certainly views himself as a peacemaker. As he said to me, "I am defending this country so this can happen?"
Others see their role as picketing the White House and Congress to stop the war and bring the troops home. They also see themselves as peacemakers. Are you a peacemaker in your family, your business, your community?
Whether you are poor in spirit; mourning; meek; hungering and thirsting for justice; merciful; clean of heart; a peacemaker; persecuted for the sake of righteousness; or insulted and persecuted because of your faith in God you have one thing in common.
At times life has removed everything of value in terms of society's values. You seem to have nothing. What you have valued is gone and can not be replaced. You have just buried your spouse or other loved one. Your job has been out-sourced. You grieve that many in our society are not treated as sisters and brothers but as a person not worthy of what you have achieved. You try your best to be the peacemaker as you define that in the eyes of God. You deeply reflect on the Book of Ecclesiastes which says "There is a time for peace and a time for war." You pray for the gift of discernment to sort out what may seem like mixed messages.
It is at times like these in your life that you need to make room for God. Make room for God to enter your life and God will fill the void. As we know from living life, every thing and every person is but a moment and is passing. Nothing is lasting; only the presence of God in your life.
One of the challenges is to let everything go-do not be attached to anything---even the person you love more than anyone in this entire world. It is at these times that God will be present with you in a way you can not imagine as the second half of each of the Beatitudes states: The kingdom of heaven will be yours; you will be comforted; you will be satisfied; you will have mercy shown you; you will see God; rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven will be great.