Taste and See: Blessed, happy, lucky…

p1000457a-paradise

In Greek the word is ‘makarios‘.

In English it is translated sometimes as ‘blessed’, sometimes as ‘happy’, at other times ‘lucky’.

‘It’ being the state enjoyed by those who do the good things Jesus singles out in the Beatitudes – heard in the Gospel proclaimed at Mass on Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

And why are these ‘blessed’, ‘happy’, or ‘lucky’? Not because they shall be satisfied with some reward in the future – though they will. But because here, now they sahre in the quality of life that is God’s: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Future reward comes because God is king, and these people know it: and more importantly yet, because these people live according to the reign of God, here, now, like Jesus. On earth, as it is in heaven.

p1000456-paradise-b

  • Where do you seek to live heaven on earth ?
  • What helps?
  • What hinders?

Photographs: Liverpool. (c) 2006, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Speak up?

Beatitudes 2.jpg

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

This coming Sunday, the 4th in Ordinary Time, we hear teh Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel as our Sunday Gospel.

The passage from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is a key exposition of the teaching of Jesus. Perhaps because they never read to the end, some -for example Goebbels, have belittled it as proclaiming a Gospel of weakness and impotence.

Monty Python offered their own take in the Life of Brian, exploiting the sermon on the mount to provide a funny tale of poor crowd control and mishearing. They provided a sympathetic sign-off to the sketch, but again one which focuses on the softer element of the teaching of Jesus.

MAN #2: You hear that? Blessed are the Greek.

GREGORY: The Greek?

MAN #2: Mmm. Well, apparently, he’s going to inherit the earth…..

 

MRS. BIG NOSE: Oh, it’s the meek! Blessed are the meek! Oh, that’s nice, isn’t it? I’m glad they’re getting something, ’cause they have a hell of a time.

Jesus himself ends with a challenge to his listeners to be strong and resilient as they engage with the evils of the world: to endure abuse and persecution for the cause of right and in defence of their following of Jesus.

  • Which Beatitude do you find most attractive?
  • Which do you find most challenging?
  • Which Beatitude most deepens the quality of life in you?

 

To see the Sermon on the Mount scene from The Life of Brian click here.

Photograph of Church at the Mount of Beatitudes. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Flash of recognition – new in the old

Church of BeatitudesOn Sunday’s feast – the Solemnity of All Saints – the Gospel proclaimed was the familiar text of the Beatitudes.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:  they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

In a world where new is often seen as better, or at least is ‘sold’ as such, there is something profoundly counter cultural about the preponderance of repetition in Christian worship and prayer.

And yet, for those with ears that listen, the experience of repetition, new encounters with the familiar, proves again and again that this old words have so much more to disclose to us. In our new hearing, that often enough seems like a first hearing, we encounter the profound truths of the living word.

  • What newly strikes you in the text today? Or struck you on Sunday?
  • Which beatitude most characterises your life as a disciple?
  • Which present you with most challenge?

Bring your reflections to God in prayer.

Interior of the Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee. Photograph (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of the Blessing of the Kingdom

Beatitudes 3

The Gospel for Sunday, the Solemnity of All Saints, is likely to be a very familiar one – the Beatitudes as presented in Matthew’s Gospel.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:  they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

The standards of life that belong to the kingdom are simple and clear.

How much more challenging they are to live to.

How rare it is, that these are the values to which the media draws our attention.

These are the values that unite. It seems to make better headlines when they can write and speak about things which divide.

These are the values that foster happy, blessed, life. Those other values hobble us, constrain us, and threaten to suffocate us.

  • How does life in your parish help you to live by the values of the kingdom?
  • How do you help others to live by the values of the kingdom?
  • What else help you yourself to faithful living?

Bring your reflections to God in prayer.

Sculpted figures of the Preaching of the Beatitudes, Domus Galilei, Galilee. Photograph (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Make us one

Beatitudes2The First reading at Mass on Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Easter, reminds of the fundamental equality of all people in the eyes of God.

As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, knelt at his feet and prostrated himself. But Peter helped him up. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘I am only a man after all!’

Then Peter addressed them: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.’

While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on the pagans too, since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God. Peter himself then said, ‘Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?’ He then gave orders for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they begged him to stay on for some days.

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48

Christians are children of God, members of the new People, not to confer on us a new and particular dignity, but to entrust to us a new and particular mission. We are called to build up the family of God, a family comprising all peoples, of all types and sorts.

In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free. We are simply called to be one as He is One.

 

Taste and See: the holiness of God in your brothers and sisters

Pantheon 2

Yesterday, at least in England and Wales, the Church kept the feast of All Saints. (Elsewhere the feast was kept on its more usual date of 1st November)

The image on this page is of Rome’s Pantheon, the temple built c20BC and dedicated to all the gods. In 609 it was consecrated as a church by Pope Boniface and dedicated to Our Lady and all martyrs. The dedication includes reference to the martyrs because Pope Boniface had brought to the church, from the catacombs and cemeteries of Rome, 28 wagonloads of the bones of martyrs (and other early Christians?) to be interred there. What had been a temple of all the gods was now the House of God, and house of the Church, house of the saints of God.

The Beatitudes, heard at Mass yesterday, are so familiar. Perhaps in prayer today, read the words of Jesus slowly, hearing the words as if for the first time, registering again surprise, joy, confusion even, as what he is saying and what it means.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill.

There he sat down and was joined by his disciples.

Then he began to speak.

This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

  • Which beatitude challenges you most? Why
  • Which beatitude encourages you most? Why?
  • Is there a beatitude that you might choose to try to live more fully today? How might you do that?

At the end of your time of reflection, ask the Lord for help and protection for the day, and end by praying the Glory be, giving God praise.

Photograph of the Pantheon/S. Maria ad Martyres (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your blessings and our hope

Beatitudes

Today is the Solemnity of All Saints, transferred from Saturday 1st November because of a decision of the Bishops of England and Wales that Holy Days of Obligation (other than Christmas!) that fall on a Saturday or Monday are transferred to the Sunday. (The  Solemnity of All Souls, which normally falls on 2nd November is, this year, transferred to Monday 3rd November.)

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them: ‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God. Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’ Matthew 5:1-12

The words of the Beatitudes offer great reassurance and peace. But it is a reassurance that comes from acknowledging, confronting, the things that in this life often disturb our peace: striving for justice; mourning; working for peace; experiencing persecution; being gentle even if the cost of one’s gentleness is being taken advantage of.

Jesus says that blessed, happy, are those  who seek to live the values of the Kingdom, of heaven, even on earth. They are this not because of their own efforts only – though living this way is often quite some effort. Living this way, one needs the help of the grace and the love of God. This is the way of faithfulness, and faith – among other things – is always something to do with our response to what God has already done.

On this day that we remember our call to sanctity and rejoice that that call has been answered so fully and so generously by so many, it is also worth while taking time to think how does Jesus himself exemplify these virtues.

  • What parables show us the way into the different beatitudes?
  • What stories from Jesus’ life exemplify the beatitudes?
  • Where/when have we experienced these virtues in the Lord’s speaking to and caring for us?

Photograph is a view across the hill of Beatitudes, Galilee, down to the sea of Galilee. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.