Blessed Are You

Today’s Gospel is Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ preaching of the Beatitudes. “Blessed are you who are poor…Blessed are you who are now hungry…Blessed are you who are now weeping…Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold your reward will be great in heaven.”

In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI devotes significant attention to the Beatitudes. He reflects on the experiences of St. Paul and on John’s Gospel discussion of the Cross to draw two conclusions about the Beatitudes.

First, and fundamentally, “the Beatitudes express the meaning of discipleship. They become more concrete and real the more completely the disciple dedicates himself to service in the way that is illustrated for us in the life of St. Paul. What the Beatitudes mean cannot be expressed in purely theorectical terms; it is proclaimed in the life and suffering, and in the mysterious joy, of the disciple who gives himself over completely to following the Lord.”

From this flows for Benedict the second point, namely, “the Christological character of the Beatitudes. The disciple is bound to the mystery of Christ. His life is immersed in communion with Christ.” (Benedict quotes Paul’s statement in Galatians that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”) He goes on to call the Beatitudes “the transposition of Cross and Resurrection into discipleship. But they apply to the disciple becuase they were first paradigmatically lived by Christ himself.”

So the Beatitudes are both a “veiled interior biography” of Jesus and a set of directions for all of Christ’s disciples. However, the directions are a little more complicated than the IKEA directions for putting together a bookcase. Benedict observes that because we all have different callings, the directions apply differently for each of us. So we each need to spend some time praying with the Beatitudes to discern what they say for us.

Praying with the Beatitudes this morning, in light of Benedict’s words, I had a very clear sense of the Beatitudes as speaking primarily about our relationship with/stance toward God. Taken together, they create a picture of right relationship wth God – recognition of dependence on God, humility, hunger/desire for God and restlessness until we achieve full union with God. It is a picture that stands in stark contrast to the stance of the non-disciple.