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November 1-2, 2003

"The Beatitudes"

(Matthew 5:1-12)

This weekend we celebrate the feast of All Saints, and the feast of All Souls, and since you all are saints, Happy Feast Day!

I think that the best way to look at the beatitudes of Jesus, is to look first at the anti-beatitudes of the world, to see what the world blesses, and in contrast, what Jesus blesses.

So this is what the world says:

“ Blessed are the rich; the reign of this world is yours.” The rich have everything, the poor have nothing.

“ Blessed are those who do not mourn, who cause other people to mourn, who kill and wage war and make people grieve the death of their loves ones. In their time of trial, they will not be comforted.”

“ Blessed are the arrogant, the proud, the violent, the powerful; those who dominate and oppress. They supposedly own everything but they shall inherit nothing.”

“ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for injustice. The reign of this world is yours.” Those who support, promote and benefit from injustice, from the oppression and suffering of the world’s poor--because they desire injustice, they will never be satisfied. They will never find true meaning in their lives, or real spiritual satisfaction.”

“ Blessed are those who show no mercy--no mercy to children, victims, women, the elderly, the homeless, social outcasts, refugees, the hungry, the enemy, the unborn, or those on death row. Those who show no mercy will never receive mercy, ever.”

“ Blessed are the warmakers--those who make war, support war, go off to war, who draft our young people for war, who invade and bomb and occupy, who build nuclear weapons.
They shall be called the sons and daughters of war, not children of God, because God does not make war or support war or bless war. (And so the world blessed Bush, Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld, but in reality they are greatly cursed.)

“ Blessed are those who are not persecuted for the sake of justice, who are comfortable, safe and secure; who do not get involved in the struggle for social change; who remain silent in the face of the world’s injustice. This world is theirs and the reign of God is not theirs, for God’s reign is ultimately about fairness, justice and equality.”

That’s what the world tells us.

Jesus comes into the world and turns the world upside down, and rejects the values of the world and announces the upside down values of heaven. His beatitudes are the basic guidelines of the spiritual life and I invite you to think about them:

“ Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the reign of God.” I think Jesus wants us to let go of our possessions, share our lives with one another, and come before God in our weakness, powerlessness, brokenness and need. If we do, we will be the richest people on earth because we will possess the one thing that the rich and powerful do not have--the reign of God.

“ Blessed are those who mourn.” Jesus says that as we grieve the death of our loved ones, we are blessed. But not only that, he wants us to mourn all the millions who are being killed in war or dying from relievable diseases and malnutrition, to grieve for all the dying people of the world, to let the sorrow of the human race touch our hearts. Then, God will console us, because we will be like God, who mourns for everyone.

“ Blessed are the meek. They shall inherit the earth.” Jesus invites us to practice humility, gentleness, and nonviolence, to be gentle and humble of heart like him. If we do, we will receive the blessing of creation itself and inherit the beauty of the earth.

“ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.” Jesus wants us to be passionate for justice, to speak out against injustice here in New Mexico and around the world, to crave justice for the whole human race, and to resist injustice. To the extent that we are pursue justice, he says, we will find meaning and true spiritual satisfaction.

“ Blessed are the merciful; they shall be shown mercy.” Jesus wants us always to be merciful to one another, no matter what. He wants us to be as merciful, as compassionate as God, which means we forgive everyone who ever hurt us, that we will never resort to revenge or retaliation. We will show mercy to everyone we meet for the rest of our lives, and one day, we will receive the mercy of God.

“ Blessed are the pure in heart. Jesus wants us to be completely pure in our hearts, to get rid of all our inner violence and anger and hatreds and resentment and impurities, to fashion our hearts like his Sacred Heart. If we do, he says, we will learn to see God everywhere--in one another, in every human being, even in our enemies, and one day, we will see God face to face.

“ Blessed are the peacemakers.” If we can help make peace in our families, and live at peace with our spouses and our children and our parents and with everyone in town, and stand for peace in the world, and be against every type of war and violence, Jesus says, we will be just like God and actually become the sons and daughters of God because God is always making peace among us.

Finally, “Blessed are those persecuted for the sake of justice, for My name’s sake.” This one may be the hardest of them all. Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker said that we can measure our discipleship by the amount of trouble we are in. If we are willing to get in trouble like Jesus for trying to help others, trying to make peace and seek justice, trying to end war and injustice, trying to make the world a better place, no matter what happens, we can rejoice because we really are following Jesus on the way of the cross.

I think each one of you is living these beatitudes, that each one of us is undergoing one of them, and I think we all called to live these beatitudes, to make them come true in our lives, and we can see how we are living the Beatitudes by being on the look out for the blessings, to see where God is at work in our lives, giving us God’s reign, consoling us, giving us the earth for an inheritance, satisfying our longings for justice, showing us mercy, showing us God’s face, giving us joy, and welcoming us all into God’s reign of love.

So your homework assignment this week is to work on these Beatitudes, to get ready for some mighty blessings from God, and to become little saints.

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