4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 29th January, 2017
Some biblical scholars believe that Luke's version of the Beatitudes is probably closer to Jesus' actual words spoken to the people who had sought him out on the hillside that day. Today, however, we are challenged to respond to Matthew's account of the event. Mark O'Brien reminds us that this preaching followed an earlier call to repentance and conversion, to transform one's own life in order to become a builder of the kingdom of God in time, not passively waiting to enjoy its full perfection in eternity.
How, then, do we hear these words of the Word in our present historical context? To be poor in spirit here and now is not to set a spiritual value on the hardships endured by the millions of people who live in dire poverty; but to recognise their plight as a social sin and work to eradicate its causes.
For what should we be mourning in this twentyfirst century if not for our collective global failure to recognise the needs and corresponding rights of all human persons, without exception or discrimination of any kind? Meekness, to modern ears, may seem like a call to false humanity, or weakness of will; but no! It is, rather, an invitation to find and practise the strength that comes from recognition of our own limitations and failures and a refusal to judge or dominate others.
To hunger and thirst for justice is not just a state of mind or a set of noble values. It demands that we dare to practise what we dare to preach, ready for action to achieve justice for those to whom justice is denied, socially, politically, economically. If we dare to call upon God's mercy in the prayer Jesus has given us, can we dare to deny mercy to those among whom we live, work and celebrate the Eucharist?
In a world torn apart by division born of hatred, revenge or greed for power, we are called by the one who is titled Prince of Peace, to bring down the barriers that isolate us from one another and perpetuate the causes of violence at home and abroad. Taken together, the Beatitudes may be described as a spelling out of what it means to be a disciple of the Lord who asks us to 'love one another as I have loved you'. His love, we know, is extravagant and universal. Such is the model he offers to those who wish to be his disciples. Are we ready?
Sr Mary Britt OP