The Beatitudes

01-20-2021NewsletterJeff Looker, Senior Coordinator

Brothers and Sisters:

This week in my fellowship, Mike Peters had us watch a homily by Fr. John Riccardo, a wonderful homilist and Spirit filled priest whom I had never heard before. The topic was the “Beatitudes” of Matthew Chapter 5. A great subject for sure but not one that I usually run to for inspiration!

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12, RSV-CE)

Some translations have rendered the Greek word for “blessed” as “happy”. The Greek word “Makarios” means both those things, but also someone who receives divine favor. Fr. Riccardo makes the point- “who really feels blessed or happy in these situations? “ In fact he says, I’m not sure I want to find myself in these situations, and he said, he certainly would not feel “blessed” or” happy” in the midst of them. There must be a deeper understanding!

As I read through Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, it is easy to see why the world and frankly many Christians (including me) see “loss” and “unhappiness” in Jesus’ list of situations when we are:

  • Poor in Spirit (How is anything “poor” a blessing?)
  • Mourning (Who is Happy or blessed in mourning?- Seriously?)
  • Meek (who wants to be a doormat?)
  • Hungering and thirsting for Righteousness (Where is the Justice in this world anyway? Come on , Lord!)
  • Needing to show Mercy (again? Ugh)
  • Pure in Heart (in a world of endless distractions?)
  • Needing to be a peacemaker (Can’t everyone just get along?)
  • Persecuted for righteousness (Happy and blessed? OK…..)
  • Being reviled and persecuted and slandered falsely because we are Christians (I’m kind of used to this one, a little, but happy about it? Nope.)

It seems to me I have had a lot of unanswered prayers lately. Maybe you feel the same way? I have also had a lot of answered prayer as well, but never mind about that! It is easy to focus on what appears to be a “ loss” in some form when things don’t go our way. I have said this before, but sales and marketing people will tell you that the most powerful motivator for a consumer to buy is not desire for gain, but fear of loss. Countdown timers, “last one- hurry” are all motivators to close a deal. Opportunity waits for no one! Act quickly before it’s too late!! Today only! Scarcity motivates us more than desire for gain or improvement. Take for example the “Great toilet paper shortage” of 2020. Toilet paper was on my mind a lot more than it should have been. I know when Costco got a shipment of toilet paper in, and I was there, I indeed felt “happy” and “blessed” (at least for a little while)

In reflecting on Jesus words, I had to be honest: I feel blessed when I get what I want. I’m happy when God answers my prayer in the manner and method I prescribe. Like I’m the doctor writing a prescription and the Lord is the divine pharmacist dispensing the cure for what I’m praying about. Being “blessed” and “happy” are a condition of “not Thy will buy mine be done” (A little play on words there)

The root of the Greek word Makarios (Blessed) is also in Mary’s Magnificat where She declares:

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; (Luke 1:46-48, RSV-CE)

Objectively, its hard to see how the Blessed Mother could be “happy” about seeing her Son tortured on the cross or feel “Blessed” when the Romans were following Herod’s order to kill all the baby boys under two because of her son. Obviously, we know she had supreme confidence in God and His plan. But she said “All generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:46) How can we have this same disposition in all these situations Jesus mentioned?

In many ways 2021 is shaping up to be like a storm ahead. Bob Carmody will tell you, when you are flying a 747 and there are thick dark clouds ahead, you call Air Traffic Control to get a new heading above or around the storm. Going straight into it is not your first choice. Brothers and Sisters, we are in the eye of the hurricane right now. There is no going back, or to the right or to the left. Forward is our only option. The storm is all around us. Is anyone reading this feeling “happy” or “blessed”?

Being “blessed” is not a feeling or a measurement of how successfully God fulfills our desires. Fr Riccardo points out that what Jesus was saying in Matt 5 is that those who attain the qualities he lists are in an objective state of “Divine Favor”. Mary was obviously the supreme reflection of being “Blessed” and in Divine Favor. Feelings cannot measure or quantify this Divine Favor. Isaiah 60 gives us a glimpse into the Divine Favor that is available to us in City of the Lord:

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3, RSV-CE)

Our Convocation this year has the theme “For a time such as this- living the promise of Isaiah 60” The promise of Isaiah 60 is not that the Lord takes away the darkness on the earth and it’s people but that THE GLORY OF THE LORD rises upon us. He is the light and He lights us up and the world sees Him through us. Jesus did not remove the cross from redemption, he triumphed over it. In the midst of suffering for the sins of men, Jesus was not emotionally happy, but he was objectively “blessed” and had Divine Favor. Jesus and the blessed Mother give us the model of what it truly means to be “blessed”

Brothers and sisters, let us pray that we can have the grace to know we are ”blessed”, whether or not we are “happy” about it!. As we acknowledge our status before the Lord as “blessed” the Glory of the Lord will rise upon us and we will fulfill our mission to be a light leading the world to Jesus.