Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ghandi had called this passage of the Beatitudes: ‘the most radical piece of social doctrine that was ever preached’. Try preaching this doctrine in the mission countries where extreme poverty is widespread: ‘happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of Heaven’; try preaching to the survivors of the devastating earthquake, tsunami or war, ‘happy are you who weep: you shall laugh’. Many times this passage leaves us a little confused. Surely it is better to be wealthy, to be well fed and to enjoy good times or at least to be comfortable and content. For anyone who is poor, hungry, who weeps, who is hated, Jesus has comforting words. He calls these people blessed. But for those who are rich, who are full, who laugh and who are honoured, he has harsh words of warning. Jesus’s beatitudes are addressed to his disciples, to all of us who are involved in building the kingdom of God. And they are words of consolation and of promise. Jesus knows that things will not be easy for us, we will suffer for preaching the gospel, and we will face rejection, betrayal, hurt, and tears. But the promise is of better things to come. Jesus is assuring us that a life dedicated to God will bring difficulties and hardships but that God will overcome them. So long as they remain faithful, their weeping will turn to laughter, and they will be blessed. Someone once described the beatitudes as the Be-Attitudes’, attitudes that should underpin our approach to life. In the eyes of the world, the rich seem to be blessed by God, while the poor seem cursed. But Jesus spoke about the strange poverty of those who live for the wealth of this world, and the strange wealth of those who trust in God; he spoke about the strange hunger of those whose only food is the food of this world, and the strange nourishment of those who seek the food that only God can give; Jesus spoke about the strange sadness of those who laugh and the strange joy of those who know how to weep; he spoke about the strange weakness of the strong, and the strange strength of the weak who put their trust in God. The rich tend to rely on their riches. For them it’s the world that matters. God is more or less redundant and eternal life remote and hazy. The poor on the other hand, turn to God instinctively. A poor old lady said to me on one occasion: ‘isn’t it great that we have God to lean on’. The poverty that is blessed is the poverty of those who put their trust in God rather than in material things. Only God can fill our emptiness; only God can satisfy the hunger to the human heart. The small beatitudes: BLESSED are those who can laugh at themselves, they will have no end of fun. BLESSED are those who can tell a mountain from a molehill, they will be saved a lot of bother. BLESSED are those who know how to relax without looking for excuses, they are on their way to becoming wise. BLESSED are those who think before they act, and pray before they think, they will avoid many blunders. BLESSED are those who recognise the Lord in all whom they meet; the light of truth shines in their lives, for they have found true wisdom.