There is no doubt about the focus of today’s readings in Matthew 5:1-12. We are urged, persuaded and invited to consider how we see ourselves living, flourishing and behaving in God’s Kingdom. We are invited into God’s future recognising the kingdom to come is already appearing and is present.
The danger with today’s readings is they are all so familiar we may no longer hear them clearly as if for the first time.
Instead, what we normally hear about how to live and succeed in our world is the following:
We hear and see people living this sort of life so often we are no longer shocked but are simply saddened and we accept and put up with such behaviour in order to survive in this world.
We see and experience corruption; rudeness and lack of consideration; greediness and impatience; joy in and voyeurism at the misfortune of others, grateful it’s not us. We hear our leaders and politicians ‘humble-bragging’ and misread it as integrity. We are cynical and stop trying to make a difference. We focus on survival, looking after our own interests and those we love, ignoring the pain of others as we feel powerless and insecure.
Into this world, this life, Jesus offers us of a different way of living in God’s creation.
So, take a deep breath, and listen to God’s call to a different way of living and dying.
The Beatitudes (Matt.5:1-12) are not an ‘ethical code’ – not in the expected way of being given instructions for righteous living, a list of things to do, so once completed we can ask for God’s rewards. We show once again a greedy reading of the Scriptures. The hunger to get something tangible, a recipe to get us into heaven with a reward.
The Beatitudes, although they have strong ethical implications, they are rather a description of characteristics and actions for us to practice as we already live in God’s kingdom. All of which may cause derision, hostility, rejection and persecution.
In one of my commentaries i was exploring, I was reminded of Robert Frost’s famous poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’.
The two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth….
For many of us who follow the road our culture sets for us, the initial way of the world may seem very appealing. Who doesn’t want wealth to be secure, power to control our own destiny, useful relationships to look out for us, and rewards for our hard work?
The problem is although we might recognise the undergrowth, as Robert Frost calls it, our culture is corrupt. There are traps and dead ends we do not expect.
The path Jesus offers us may not initially look appealing, but the further down the road of faith we travel, the more truth we find.
Robert Frost’s poem finishes with these words:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Micah reminds us (6:8):
He has told you O Mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Paul tells us not try to make sense of this or sound as though you can defeat this world’s powers by our own eloquent words, because it only feeds our own egos and joins us once again to the world’s desires and expectations. Paul writes:
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1:27-31)
Like the disciples, we are gathered close to Jesus to hear his words and to listen to him. We are sitting at his feet, listening along with the crowd to hear every word:
Jesus challenges how we see the world around us and our survival plan.
Jesus asks us to listen deeply with our hearts and in very fabric of our lives.
We hear Jesus speaking God’s blessings on the most difficult, uncomfortable, irreconcilable aspects and experiences of our lives as we surrender to God; and our sorrow and uncertainty give way to tears of joy and comfort.
Let me read the Beatitudes again:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are you when people 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 in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:3-12)
Jesus is saying to each of you as disciples:
Blessed are you always, even to the ends of the world; for God’s love is with you always.
The Lord be with You.
Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”. Mountain Interval (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1920,9)