Gospel for November 1st, 2015: “The Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes)”
Matthew 5: 1-12a
When he 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 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.
I remember learning the Beatitudes as an elementary student in religious education. Their poetic simplicity has a lasting effect. Furthermore, their cause and effect construction provides instruction for living that is at once logical and comprehensive. What I missed as a child that is so moving to me now is Christ was teaching us to imitate Him and in the process, His love.
Consider the description that is built by substituting Christ for “Blessed:”
Christ was and is poor in spirit. He mourns for sinners. He is meek. He hungers and thirsts for righteousness. He is merciful and clean of heart. He is a peacemaker who loves and forgives His enemies. Christ was and is persecuted, insulted, and the victim of lies against Him.
In living the beatitudes we are imitating He who taught and lived them perfectly.
However, imitation of Christ, He who is without sin, can be daunting and challenging if one sees it only as a means to an end. How can I live without sin for even one day, much less the rest of my life? Such perfection cannot possibly be attainable, so why try?
I think this is a symptom of modern perfectionist thinking that is so contrary to the simplicity required to imitate Christ. I think the idea is to be like Christ for the moment we are in. That moment will not require all these qualities of us at once. It may require us at one moment to suffer with hunger (for food or other worldly needs or desires) and at another to show mercy to just one person in need. In each moment comes the happiness of not just imitating what Christ would do, but of being with Christ in that moment. If we remember He is with us in each moment, we shall rejoice and be glad in this life in the next. If we mess up in that moment, another moment is right behind the current one with an opportunity to mourn our sin as Christ does and ask for forgiveness and mercy. And then another moment follows to be with Christ again. If that endless line of potentially happy moments isn’t a cause for hope, I don’t know what is.