1 Kgs 17:1-6
The gospel reading this morning is one of the most familiar texts in the gospels. Its very familiarity can blunt our awareness of how radical a message is being spoken. Jesus declares blessed those who live according to certain values and attitudes. They are blessed, not so much because of their present situation, but because of a future situation that God will bring about for them.
The poor in spirit are those who are aware of their own lack of resources and look to God for salvation. The ‘gentle’ is the opposite of those who are grasping; they are unselfish rather than on the make. Those who mourn are those who are disturbed by the present state of the world and long for its liberation from poverty, violence and disease.
Those who hunger and thirst for what is right are people who have a longing for the justice that God desires for all people and actively pursue it. The merciful are those who bring God’s merciful love to the broken in body, mind and spirit. The pure in heart are those who are totally dedicated to God and to God’s cause; they are single-minded in their pursuit of what God wants for the world.
The peacemakers are those who actively work for peace based on God’s justice. Having declared all of the above categories of people blessed, Jesus concluded by declaring blessed those who are prepared to suffer persecution in the pursuit of what is right, of what God desires for his world. It has been said that the one person who gives full expression to all of the attitudes and values expressed in the beatitudes is Jesus himself. He above all is the one who is poor in spirit and gentle, who mourns for the way things are and who hungers for what is right, who is merciful and pure in heart, who is a peacemaker and is prepared to suffer in the cause of right.
At the same time, Jesus is offering us in the beatitudes a vision for human living to which he calls us all to aspire. If the beatitudes are Jesus’ own self-portrait, they are also a portrait of his disciple. Later on, in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus will say, ‘Learn from me’. We can learn from him how to live the beatitudes and his Spirit will empower us to live them. Amen.
Fr. John Peter