This Sunday’s Gospel Story is from a part of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount known as the Beatitudes. We are hearing this Story in the setting of more shootings, both mass shootings and shootings involving law enforcement, disturbing attitudes and events in government branches, wars not only in Ukraine but also in several other countries, divisions happening in the Catholic Church where more bishops are publicly doing what previously they have been doing less so — criticizing, condemning, and opposing Pope Francis in any number of ways, followed by any number of people who feel they know more about being pope that Pope Francis does. Also we are surrounded by self-appointed judgmental gate keepers to God’s love and mercy who feel they are qualified to decide who can approach the liturgy and some sacraments, and have to protect God from God’s creation..
As we listen to, read, or pray the Beatitudes these days we might notice they describe a reality, a way of living, that is complete foreign to what we are living in. Do any of us really want to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek or hunger and thirst for righteousness? Bering merciful isn’t all that popular either. Being a peacemaker is dangerous, and being persecuted for righteousness, insulted, slandered isn’t all that great. Yet, this is how Jesus lived and how he calls us, his would-be followers, to live.
We are learning these days that, whoever we are, the good thing is to condemn any way we can anyone who disagrees with us on anything, to inflict our own versions of righteous pain and denigration on any who don’t conduct themselves as we think they should. It seems we’re ok with the ensuing increase in violence, mendacity, and lack of any kind of charity perspective.
In varying degrees we probably claim to be Christian, followers of Jesus. Yet we’ve also learned it is easier to worship him than to imitate him, to live as he lived. How do we deal with the Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes in our own life? Our journey with Jesus, or our lack thereof, is an intensely personal affair. Our primary role as followers of Jesus is to be open to the Spirit in our own life who invites us and offers us the opportunity to grow in our awareness of what it means for each of us as we are to live as a disciple of Jesus. This might not be an important matter for us. We may be content to go through the motions and do religious things because we’ve always done the. We may be okay with seeing God out there somewhere as Someone we want to keep happy so we can get to heaven after we die.
It happens that anyone who sincerely tries to be open to the Spirit will come to a deeply personal experience of the Beatitudes. They certainly will not be popular and will be on the receiving end of not so nice things. Pope Francis is an example of that as he tries to move the Church towards being a field hospital caring for the wounded and suffering among us.
I keep asking myself these same questions. Do I really want to trust the Spirit to lead to me to a deeper awareness of what it means for me to live as a true disciple of Jesus? I have a nice life in retirement. I help out in occasional parishes and hospitals. I know I am thought of as a character, which gives me a certain freedom. Is there more that I can be doing? Do I really want to open myself to the nastiness from folks who claim know exactly how I should live my life and who, allegedly in the name of god, will fire all kinds of salvos at me simply because I am not following their ideas? Been there, done that, and it ain’t nice.
I know I am not strong enough to “rejoice and be glad because your reward will be great in heaven”. I really wonder what the Spirit is saying, and I believe She is saying something. Is She calling me to something? Am I really open to Her? Do I really mean it when I pray “Jesus, how can I help you live our Father’s love in whatever is going on in my life”. Or am I just patting myself on the back, saying “good boy”, and giving myself a treat of feeling good.
I suspect I’m not the only “Christian” who is thinking some way along these lines. When I read and homilize this Gospel Story of the Beatitudes this weekend, I would hope that I might be able to have some kind of a conversation with the Spirit about what to do with my life here. I have no doubt God is involved in all sides of all that is going on, including my doubting and wondering, not to mention my trepidation. Also, is my questioning about me, or is the Spirit nudging me? I just don’t know. I think of Leonard Bernstein in his Mass, “but there is no imprisoning the word of God …”. So now what . . .
Just sayin. . . .