When we look at today’s gospel reading and see the famous passage of the Beatitudes, we can ask the question, how does this apply to us? Well, let’s look at the words carefully. Notice that of the beatitudes, some refer to realities of the people listening to Jesus and some reflect choices of those who hear his voice. Let’s sort out which is which.
Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. This reflects those who live in the world and are not in control of the decisions and realities that affect them. They suffer greatly. The poor in spirit are those who are economically poor and those who are not who suffer greatly in such a way that they have little control over their situation. This would include the poor in all their sufferings and the rich who suffer from infirmities and prejudices that put them on the outs of society. Society curses them, but Jesus lifts them up and calls them to see themselves as blessed.
The people who mourn are many. Remember, here is a time where death comes early, infant mortality rates are huge, medicine is scarce and the rich have access to it what the poor do not have at all. Again those outside the realm of power are those who are most burdened and oppressed and their mourning and wailing will be great.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are those who likewise suffer. They wait for the day will justice wil reign in the land. They live among corruption and see themselves suffer while the leaders enrich themselves off the backs of the poor with bribes and kickbacks. All of these are people whom Jesus is acknowledging in their suffering and their uncontrollable condition.
Finally, there are the meek, who remain silent unable to change the realities around them or maybe more accurately waiting patiently for the winds to change through the hands of God.
Yet, he then calls for people to be merciful, to stand up for Justice and to be peacemakers. These are three positions that call for choices. He is making it clear that the current suffering is not an excuse for not living the faith and not seeking to do God’s will.
He calls us to act as people in the Kingdom of God, regardless of our state in life. Blessed are those who do so. Yet, how do we do that if we are also engage in the struggles of life. The answer is simple, to keep our eyes on Christ and in his hope, his promises and in our goals to be with him. When we do that, then we are made strong to do his will in all situations. What is the difference between the suffering who succumbs physically, mentally, and emotionally to his or her condition and the one who does great things despite it. That one intense difference is hope and in Christ is the greatest of hope. He calls each of us to do His will regardless of whom we are. We can choose to follow or we can choose to suffer and wallow in pity, we cannot do both.
In my own work, when I was writing my investigations into the work of those who were trying to silence our Church, I remember the many times that I hated what I was doing. It would have been so much easier to suffer in silence. I took a lot of heat from those inside and outside the Church and to this day there are priests who are angry with me from what I wrote. My struggle cost me many things. Yet, why did I not quit? Because to run away from the task in fear is something that Jesus commands us not to do. I had to have greater trust in God than any fear in what repercussions may fall upon me because of my work. This is precisely what Jesus calls us to do. No matter what befalls us to keep our eyes on
Christ and trust in his presence, his love and his promises of eternal life. When we do that we are blessed indeed. We do great things for God and we manifest the Kingdom of God by our service to his Son Jesus Christ.
Our Christian life involves always keeping our eyes on Christ no matter what happens around us that may scare us, that may hurt us, that may alarm us. This week I learned that they are trying to pass a law in Denver that will fundamentally remove from Catholic Charities in that city all government funding unless the organization compromises its Catholic values. We saw this kind of thing coming, back in 2002. I guarantee you, it will become more widespread and will grow. This is the time to reaffirm our need to keep our eyes on Christ, because this is the time that our witness of the faith is most essential. We are always called to commit ourselves to Christ everyday by being people of prayer and holiness. Especially, when we are in a situation when people seek to silence our witness of both.
Do you choose to be a peacemaker? Then ask Jesus how to be a peacemaker and do it. Do you choose to stand up for righteousness, then ask Jesus how and stand up for righteousness? Do you choose to be merciful, then ask Jesus how and be merciful. Act on your faith that gives witness to the kingdom of God of which we belong, and you will be blessed all your life.