By Leif Kehrwald
(see slides above)
(Leif) The God of Mercy be with you . . .
[Lector] A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
(Leif) What does Jesus see when he sees the crowds? The eye of the soul sees people in relationship to God, in communion with creation, and in connection with each other.
. . . Jesus, as you take the sitting posture of a teacher, we hang on your every word.
[Lector] He began to teach them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Leif) Blessed are those who know they are poor in spirit.
These are the people caught in an unjust system and being ground up by it. Jesus sees this and the toll it takes, but he also spies a blessedness at the center of their struggle.
They recognize their need for healing.
They reflect on their lives.
They know that they need others, a community of love and support.
. . . Jesus, we seek to become poor in spirit, to empty ourselves to you.
[Lector] Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
(Leif) If we wish to live by the beatitudes, we can no longer remain deaf to the cry of those who mourn.
The world has dealt them a terrible blow, and yet at that precise moment the kingdom of heaven is still present.
And so we mourn with them.
We fully extend our concern and care for others in hope of revealing that holy presence and reconnect them to their blessedness.
. . . Jesus, help us to recognize that you are with us in our times of sorrow and loss. In you alone we find comfort.
[Lector] Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
(Leif) To be meek is not to be shrinking violets who silently endure injustice, but rather to know our proper place as children of God and to ensure that all are treated as full heirs to the kingdom.
Ego and arrogance always hinder us, and so we pray for meekness.
. . . Jesus, help us to avoid pride and vanity, and give way to one another in authentic, selfless love.
[Lector] Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
(Leif) Hunger and thirst lead to dependence on God.
This is why we pray - “give us our daily bread.”
We learn God’s righteousness, God’s justice in the classic disciplines of praying, fasting, and giving.
. . . Jesus, help us to take a stand for those things that matter, and for those people who have no voice.
[Lector] Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
(Leif) When blessedness flows as mercy it yields spiritual abundance. Mercy begets mercy not just to the receiver, but also to the giver. It becomes an atmosphere that all can simply breathe.
In our compassion for others, especially the ‘other’ we learn what mercy truly means.
. . . Jesus, help us to reserve judgment of those different from us. Give us open hearts to truly care for all people.
Lector] Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
(Leif) When blessedness generates a clean heart, a heart purified of false attachments, a heart aware of its utter dependence on God, it sees how all things are grounded in God. What people know in themselves, they can see in others.
Where our treasure is, there also is our heart.
. . . Jesus, help us to see you in each other and in our neighbor. When we see you, we know our hearts are pure.
[Lector] Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
(Leif) Peace is so much more than the absence of violence. The advent of God’s peace is the restoration of our essential relationships: with God, with each other, with the earth. Each of us is called to build peace. We are meant to build community.
. . . Jesus, help us to make peace with each other, to avoid all forms of violence, and to be a model of wholesome family and community living.
[Lector] Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Leif) If we live the beatitudes, we can expect to be rejected, and we are then more likely to be living the radical message of Jesus.
. . . Jesus, you gave your life for the sake of love. Help us to live that love even in the face of resistance.
[Lector] 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.
(Leif) Jesus, thank you for the privilege of following you. Give us strength and courage when the journey of faith calls us to make unpopular choices.
Being poor, mourning, and hungering are honorable and esteemed behaviors offered by Jesus. In the Bible, being “poor” is never an economic designation. It describes someone who has temporarily lost social status and must seek at all costs to regain it. Poor was generally associated with widows (loss of a male to care for her) or orphans (loss of connections with the family). These positions could be changed at any time: the widow could remarry and the orphan could be adopted into an extended family.
Jesus said that “being poor” constitutes true honor, as does being merciful, and being humble, mourning and being hungry. The things that God considers truly blessed, honorable, and worthy of praise are usually the opposite of what we humans think as blessed.
So here’s your homework from this reflection. Recall individual persons you know who God would consider blessed. These people—living and dead, family and friend, near and far—show us the way. Remember these people using this formula:
Blessed is ____________________ (name), who ______________________________________ (description of quality or action).
For example, “Blessed is my friend Evelyn, who perseveres with dignity in a very difficult job that offers no appreciation.”
Name a different person each day this week. And if you want to go a step further, let that person know that s/he is one your ‘beatitude persons.’
Blessed are you, people of St. Charles, for you show me the authentic face of Christ.