What makes a state of utmost bliss?

This is what the saints did, and look where it got them.

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Occasion: Sunday, January 29, 2017. Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

You can find the full readings here. This lectio is based on the Gospel reading, Matthew, 5:1-12A.

Reading

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Standout words

Poor in spirit, crowds, hunger, rejoice

Reflection

Within the last two weeks, Jesus has been baptized by John the Baptist and has called those who would become his disciples. In between those events, he began his public ministry. By this point, he is drawing whole crowds of people wanting to hear from him, and he delivers what would become known as the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus begins by listing what Christians would come to call the Beatitudes. Even if we can’t recite them word for word, we are familiar with them; “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are the merciful…” Webster’s Dictionary defines beatitude as “a state of utmost bliss.” Some religion teachers have explained them as “‘Be attitudes.’ Have these attitudes.” That explanation can be straightforward for some of them. “Blessed are the merciful.” Be merciful. “Blessed are the clean of heart.” Avoid impurity. However, the Beatitudes can go deeper than this.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” One way to look at this may be that we are not being told to be homeless and poor, but to remember that the homeless and poor are our brothers and sisters in Christ and should be treated as such and cared for. It could mean to remember the elderly and sick.

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” It is okay to seek justice if we are wronged, and to seek it for others, but vengeance is an act of hate. This justice may take the forms of social justice; feeding the hungry, or again, caring for the elderly and forgotten.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is the tough one. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” Is it wrong to want to make a good money? Money pays for food, pays the bills, and pays for family vacations. Is it wrong to want to earn a promotion at work? Setting goals challenges us; challenges help us to grow. The problem is when these things take center-stage and God gets pushed aside. Wanting something is not bad, but we have to remember what God wants for each of us. “I didn’t get this job, but maybe God has another idea.” Once we trust that we are following God’s plans for us, other things will fall into place.

The Beatitudes passage is read again at Mass for All Saints’ Day. It ends with Jesus saying, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.“ It is as if to say, “This is what the saints did, and look where it got them.”

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