Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time 2011, The Sermon on The Mount , The Beatititudes

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (1886-96) by Jame...Image via Wikipedia

Gospel reading and other scripture readings for the day are here.

There is a wealth of materials out there on the net on the Sermon on the Mount and  Beatitudes and in June 
last year I did several separate posts including one on each of the eight beatitudes.
I had them on my side bar as a separate stand alone series but when I changed my design formatting on the blog they disappeared. (Typical !!)

However if you put the search term Beatitudes into my "Search this blog box" near the top of my sidebar they will come up as separate posts.( Promise. Please let me know if there is a problem!)

Meanwhile here are a few 2011 reflections.

The sayings that we confront in the Sermon on the  Mount are typically referred to as “ 8 Beatitudes”, which  are pronouncements that begin with the word “Blessed”or "Happy", and declare  certain people to be in a fortunate or privileged position. 

The thing that strikes me most even though they are so familiar is the shocking nature of these statements, many of which seem so contrary to my understanding of the way that the world often works.

The “Beatitudes” reflect a common theme : the last  shall be first, the foolish things will shame the wise, true strength is exhibited through weakness; all deeply subversive and designed to overturn many of the common presuppositions that we have about the way in which God works.

Image source

This link takes you to images and reflections on each of the eight beatitudes

"Jesus says we are faced with a choice: to be – or not to be – the change  we want to see. And in Luke’s account of the beatitudes, Jesus makes  the choice – and its consequences for us – painfully clear.

The more we think about it, the more we begin to slowly but surely  realize, that the call to be with the poor in spirit, to be hungry for  justice, to be sad because we are weeping with those that weep, and to  be unpopular because we are committed to follow the way of Christ with  integrity, is in fact the only way that the kingdom of God can be ours,  the only way that God can satisfy our hunger for justice, and the only  way that we can have the last laugh as part of that great  tradition of  people with integrity, who suffered scorn, but triumphed at the end.

As Brian McLaren says, ‘The kingdom of heaven comes to people who  crave not victory but justice, who seek not revenge but mercy, who  strive for peace and who are courageously eager to suffer pain for the  cause of justice, not inflict it’ 

And in the light of that knowledge we know we need to make a choice:

to be – or not to be – the change  we want to see

This video set to music is a tribute to Pope John Paul II who reads the words of the Beatitudes in Italian. 

The remarkable video below is about Art Gish, who was killed in a tragic tractor accident on his farm near  Athens, Ohio. The film was shown at his memorial service and is a testament to his commitment to peacemaking  and radical Christian discipleship.

Old Radicals from
matthew leahy on Vimeo.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said of the Sermon on The Mount :
  • “Having reached the end of the beatitudes, we naturally ask if there is any place of this earth for the community which they describe. Clearly, there is one place, and only one, and that is where the  poorest, meekest, and most sorely tried of all men is to be found – on  the cross at Golgotha. The fellowship of the beatitudes is the  fellowship of the Crucified. With him it has lost all, and with him it has found all. From the cross there comes the call ‘blessed, blessed.’”

This is a live acoustic recording of "Blessed" by Simon and Garfunkel from 1967. The message then is just as meaningful now. It is similar  to David Bazan's song "God Bless the Losers" at the end of this post. (The video below is just stills).
I relate to the line :

“Bless the church service which makes me nervous.”

Fr. Richard Rohr says

"The Eight Beatitudes  offer us a more spacious world, a world where I do not have to explain everything, fix everything, or control anything beyond myself, a world where we can allow a larger mystery to work itself out through us and in us.

These things are done to us more than anything we can do. 

The Beatitudes are about changing me, not changing other people. Wonderfully, it is not about being right anymore. Who can fully do the Beatitudes “right”?

It is about being in right relationship, which is a very different agenda.

We live, of course, in the tension between two worlds: the world where I need to prove that I am right and the world of daily right  relationship with myself and others.
One demands dominative power and  concern with changing other people; the other is a self-renewing call to  right relationship, and is primarily about changing me.

 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of justice:

the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

This Beatitude is stated in the present tense: Theirs is the Kingdom  of heaven. Jesus was almost always talking about rewards and punishments  as being inherent in the action itself.

We have  unfortunately pushed Jesus’  teaching off into a reward-punishment system that was supposed to take place later, after death. 
It pretty much made the Gospel innocuous in  this world, and largely appealed to our fear, our security needs, and a  delayed self interest.

Jesus is not giving us a set of prescriptions for later nearly as  much as a set of descriptions of how life works now.

Below photo: Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Israel

The self that Jesus himself teaches from and then offers to us is our true self in God. 

That core, content identity is so grounded that it  can consider persecution an asset or even a “blessing”!

The false self considers such teachings as these as pure nonsense or even dangerous. It  makes one fear that much of Christian history has been enabling and  empowering the false and insecure self instead of any glorious revealing  of the true self.

Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of  God.

A peacemaker is the one who reconciles quarrels and overcomes  conflicts, first of all within himself or herself. Clearly you can see  Jesus is not on the side of the violent but on the side of the  non-violent, yet we did not have the English word “non-violence” until  the 1950’s. You do not have a word for something that is not even in  your consciousness.

It is almost impossible to believe how most of Christian history was  unable to hear Jesus’ rather explicit teaching on non-violence.

It seems  that we started, encouraged, idealized, and fought in most wars that  were ever available to us. The only time—until very recently—that a Pope  ever condemned a war was when the Turks invaded the Papal States! 
But,  thank God, there were a few smaller groups like the Mennonites, Quakers,  and Amish who always took Jesus’ teaching seriously.

Jesus is saying there must be a clear consistency, a constant unity  between our means and the ends we hope to achieve. 

There is no way to  peace other than peacemaking itself. How you get there is always where you finally arrive."

Ron Rolheiser here states that : 

"Almost thirty years ago, Daniel Berrigan wrote a little book that he entitled, Ten Commandments for the Long Haul. It was, in effect, a  handbook of sorts on how to be a prophet in today's world. It was Berrigan at his best, explaining how a prophet must make a vow of love  and not of alienation. Anyone who is trying to be prophetic, from the  right or from the left, might profitably read this book.

He ends with a number of Commandments, not ten but forty-seven of them.  Here's a sample of them (paraphrased), just to give you a taste of his  insight, language, and wit:

1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds  (except that never happens).

2) Don't be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you  think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter,  most humans?

3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they're growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth  knowing.

4) About practically everything in the world, there's nothing you can  do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.

5) On a long drive, there's bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don't go  anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time.  And don't be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.

6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don't love  yourself. They just endure. So do you.

7) About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus' specialty and  he was heard to say: "Take up your couch and walk!"

8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don't use the earphones. Then you'll be able to see what's going on, but not  understand what's happening, and so you'll feel right at home, little  different then you do on the ground.

9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.

10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No  worry, there are at least five exits.

In the United States there is an ongoing debate about the value or non-value of posting the Ten Commandments in certain public places.  Proponents argue that, as a culture founded on Judeao-Christianity, we  owe it to ourselves and our children to post publicly our essential moral code. Opponents argue that this isn't fair to other religions and, beyond that, we would serve ourselves better by posting the Beatitudes, the real challenge that awaits us beyond the Ten Commandments.

What Berrigan and John XXIII do is bring the Commandments and the Beatitudes together. Moreover they both do too what Scripture enjoins us  all to do, namely, to inscribe the Commandments into the flesh of our  hearts by making them a practical guide for our lives.

In A Decalogue for Daily Living that Pope John XXIII wrote for himself, his  own Commandments for daily life. They reflect his depth, his simplicity,  and his humility:

1) "Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively  without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I  will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in  my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve  or to discipline anyone except myself.
3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created  to be happy, not only in the other world buy also in this one.
4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all  circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5) Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good  reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the  body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and  if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to  the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two  evils: hastiness and indecision.
9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the  good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this  world
10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be  afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed,  for 12 hours, I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I  to believe I had to do it all my life."  

Nice personal interpretation of  Beatitudes For A Modern Day here  

Video Orthodox Christian song of the Beatitudes

David  Bazan’s song " God Bless the Losers " underlines a different,  counter-consumer reading to  the beatitudes. Typically we hear bless as directed towards those who  deserve it, those who have worked hard, or shown good  work  ethic, Bazan’s song shows the flip side to this. The unexpected graces  to people who, at least in society’s minds, do not deserve anything at  all. What if God really does bless “the losers ?”

 This link gives extensive thoughts on each of the eight beatitudes...

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