The Beatitudes are the beginning of the massive teaching of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon ends with a contrast between Wisdom and foolishness. The Wise, are those who hear The Words of Jesus and put them into action. The foolish, also hear His Words but do nothing with it.
Each time I hear or read this beautiful Sermon, it touches something deep inside of me in a way that other Sacred texts do not. It is so clear eyed and so daring, so sure of itself as it contradicts common thinking. It sweeps me along in a torrent of love and takes me to the place where, however dimly, I see what Jesus sees when he looks at me and you. Hearing it is like, as David Whyte said of poetry, "the art of overhearing ourselves say something from
which it is impossible to retreat".
So what is it that Jesus sees when he moves to the higher plain? He sees people. He sees the circumstance of their lives. He sees the sacredness of their lives. He sees with three eyes and invites His disciples to do the same.
Jesus sees the people before Him and the negative circumstances that surround and pervade their lives. The poverty that goes so deep it crushes their spirit and reduces them to a constant state of mourning. In this situation they are meek, not violent or vengeful but hungering and thirsting for equality. Caught up in an unjust system, they are trying to better their lives and He is eager to support them. Jesus also sees a 'blessedness' dancing in the centre of their struggle for community. This blessedness is given by God, so is more powerful than the social and political systems that overwhelm them. It is already present and working its way towards a fuller space. It is moving mourning towards comfort, meekness towards inheritance and hunger and thirst towards satisfaction. It is giving notice to the current situation that it will not have the last word. The blessedness not only survives and overcomes human evil, it shines forth bringing its energies to the task of making life better.
When blessedness flows as Mercy, Purity of Heart, Peace-making, and Justice Making it becomes an atmosphere that all are invited to breathe. This is what Jesus sees and what He wants us to see. As Hopkins said in 'The Wreck of the Deutschland', "Ah! There was a heart right / There was a single eye".
As we listen to the Gospel for this fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are given another chance to be caught up in the stunning teaching of the Beloved Son of God. If we will allow it, it will grip us. Once heard, they are words from which it is impossible to retreat. It is being said. It is taking us to a higher plain. We might not stay there for long but we know that way back. The lightning bolt of truth which first touched us through these words, will never cease to call us to the abiding light that the darkness can never overcome.