There’s a temptation for us when we hear the Beatitudes (in today’s Gospel) to kind of wonder where we fall on the list. We do a quick scan as we go up and down that list and try to picture what applies to us and our condition. Peacemaker? Well I’m Italian so that’s not always my strongest point Meek? Not quite sure what that is… Persecuted for the sake of righteousness? Many of us stop listening after persecuted and can give a whole list of grievances. We quickly surmise “we’re blessed,” and even misunderstand that as well to thinking “Jesus is on my side, He’s on my team, He agrees with me…”
Without necessarily realizing it, we can slip into the sin of presumption. We have this expectation of God’s agreement with our view of things, His mercy on my sins (if we even call them sins anymore), His blessing what we want blessed. Which is a complete distortion, and a manipulation of things.
It’s interesting because this Gospel is paired with this short passage from the Old Testament book of Kings. We hear Elijah’s prophecy about a coming drought. The back story is that the people of Israel had fallen completely into the sin of presumption. They had flagrantly abandoned God’s specific commandments – there was kneeling done to pagan altars and idols (rather than to Him and Him alone) – there had been civil strife and unjust orders being laid upon the people by government and religious leaders in absolute violation of the covenant. You know, things that NEVER happen anymore. That is what preceded the drought. God’s favor had disappeared from the midst of God’s chosen people. Because the people had abandoned Him.
Interestingly, we often jump right into the Gospel passage without taking note of an important thing that the people had done, which was three little words – came to Him (Mt. 5: 1) You almost get the sense that Jesus was looking at the crowd, seeing their hearts, knowing their situation and was speaking directly to the crowd before him – almost like “I see you, you who are mourning… I see you’re here, I see you’re pain… I see you, you who are meek, I see how humble and gentle and kind and how taken advantage by people in this world you are…. I see you peacemaker – I see how you tried to bring reconciliation, I see how you didn’t try to use a horribly painful event to divide people or advance an agenda but sincerely wanted to bring peace – I see – and you coming to me, the only one who really matters – I can promise you, you’re blessed…You’re blessed in looking for healing from me, for Justice from me, for affirmation and value not from the world or the people of this world, but from God and God alone.
Being Blessed doesn’t mean things will be satisfied or rectified or even relieved in the here and now. Notice His promise of rejoicing and gladness comes not now – but in heaven. Do we desire that eternal promise? Are willing to place ourselves at Jesus’ feet and look for His guidance and direction in the here and now even in the midst of continued set backs and struggles? Is our resolve to do so because our eyes and hearts are fixed on heaven? Or do we just presume we’re going to end up there?