When we are going to give someone some shocking news, we usually ask them to sit down. Even over the telephone we ask, “Are you sitting down?” Being seated helps to relax us—to be able to handle whatever is coming.
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain and sat down. The people probably followed His example. Being seated disposes us to listen better. “The Sermon on the Mount, or mountain” was filled with surprises—one right after the other, like little bombs which exploded in the minds of those who stayed to listen. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Whoever heard of such a contradiction? How can being poor be a blessing? We spend most of our life working to get educated in order to find a good job so that we can make money. The acquisition of possessions gives us a false sense of contentment. Nevertheless, we all fall into the trap. Regardless of the economic system, the more we have, the more we want. The Hebrew Scriptures describe possessions as a blessing and the lack of possessions as a curse. Therefore, the statement that Jesus made went against all learned behavior. To this day, being poor goes against all learned behavior. Ah, but being poor in “spirit” kind of softens the radical proclamation. No doubt that Jesus was speaking about our thoughts, our soul, our spiritual poverty. Yet if we are poor in spirit, then we are not going to make possessions our life ambition. Consider what happens when we die. Have we ever seen a moving van following a hearse? After death who gets our stuff? There are usually no storage vaults next to graves. All of the Beatitudes invite us to look beyond our time on earth to our heavenly home.
While many of us can recite the Ten Commandments by heart, very few know the Beatitudes by memory. The Beatitudes are like a set of new Commandments. They address attitude, not behavior. The Beatitudes are the groundwork for an inner change of heart. They are like a roadmap for true happiness. The Beatitudes are not popular—never have been, never will be. The reason is simple. Nobody likes to morn. Being merciful is not profitable. Who knows what “clean of heart” means. Negative thoughts come every three seconds. A person with a clean heart is not supposed to have negative thoughts—or so we think. Perhaps we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves when we consider words of Christ.
However, we can be certain that Jesus would not have set us up for failure. The Lord would never have given us a directive if His words were beyond our capacity. We are called to be peacemakers. That doesn’t mean that we must be in a government seat to establish peace. Being a peacemaker starts in our home, within our family circle. Most of the violence happens in homes. We cannot expect peace in our world if we have unrest in our family. Being like Christ, acting like Christ, loving like Christ will always get us in trouble. Jesus knew that His followers would be persecuted. So, He said, “Don’t worry about it.” “Rejoice, be glad.” Nothing can harm us, not even death. That’s why many of the martyrs went to their death singing. Jesus conquered death. We have nothing to fear. Our eyes need to be focused on heaven; despite whatever problems we are facing. Everything will pass, including suffering. Our greatest weapon is love. Christ fights our battles, especially against the enemy. If we rejoice and are glad in the face of persecution, then we cannot be angry. There is a lot of wasted energy spent in trying to defend someone who does not need to be defended. The Lord protects us, not the other way around. Agents of peace are desperately needed in a world filled with vengeance.
Our vocation is to be different. Problems will come. We rejoice. We are glad because we know who will always defend us.