Image: Mountaintop view
In our Gospel readings over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be hearing some of the most important sayings and teachings of Jesus taken from his sermon on the mount. Today we have the introduction to his sermon in the Beatitudes and immediately realize that this is not going to be any ordinary teaching as Jesus turns the world on its head.
All the ordinary signs that the world takes for success; health, wealth and happiness seem to have been discarded in Jesus’ homily. Instead he focuses on the things that we ordinarily try to avoid and highlights them as treasure for our spiritual lives.
Blessed are the poor, blessed are those who are mourning, blessed are those who are hungry, blessed are those who are persecuted. Usually we would pity someone or feel sorry for ourselves if we were to be in any one of these states of mind or body, but Jesus holds them before us and asks us to consider them again.
What Jesus asked us to contemplate 2000 years ago we are just coming to realize, that the happiness that the world offers is an illusion and is unattainable for the vast majority of people. The disparity between those who have it and those who do not continues to grow and the cost to the earth is unsustainable. The alternative is a simpler life, and to realize that in God we have what we need to be happy and fulfilled as human beings
During my theology studies I had the chance to spend some time in a L’Arche community, where developmentally challenged people lived together with those who cared for them. L’Arche is not about institutions but rather homes filled with love and people of faith. The “Core-members” at L’Arche were never going to win academic awards or rise to power in the business world but in this environment they thrived. They had their challenges, to be sure, but when surrounded by loving, caring people there was no need for pity. The joy that I saw whenever we gathered to celebrate was unreserved and unlike anything that I had seen before. L’Arche is just one example of the upside-down world that Jesus is talking about, a place where our present values are challenged, and we can see an alternative reality.
Jesus is not saying that God is unavailable to the rich and powerful, the intelligent, it is just simply that when you feel self-reliant there is no need to look further. God is always present but if you do not take the time to look you will never find Him. None of us are truly self-reliant, the COVID-19 pandemic has made that abundantly clear. It does not matter how in control of your life you think you are, that self-assurance can all be lost in a moment of time.
One of the most important take-away messages from the beatitudes is that we are not just trying to limp through this life while we wait for expectantly for the next. We can begin to experience the joys heaven, the blessed life, already, right here and now. Not by lowering our expectations but by seeing differently, by turning our expectations of the world upside down and realizing that the Kingdom of Heaven is already ours.