Our Gospel today is the beatitudes as found in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus gave us the beatitudes not simply as Jesus’ helpful hints to a happy living but they are descriptive of God’s mind and Jesus’ heart. They proclaim basic kingdom values and reveal what the Kingdom of God is like. Jesus gave us these beatitudes in order that these will be our attitudes. They are to form and shape our lives as they reflect our longings to have God’s life and longings. That’s a quite different approach. Most of the time, we try to bend and distort God’s life and longings in order to fit ours. That is why the beatitudes are so essential and their challenge often seem so out of reach.
As we hear Jesus’ words and consider the beatitudes, it’s easy to look at ourselves and say, “That is not me, that is not the world, that is not even the Church.” You are right, it’s not. We tend to look at what we are not. God, however, focuses on what we can become, who we are called to be.
Our temptation sometimes is to view the beatitudes as rules or situation for being blessed or receiving our heavenly reward, not at all. They are not about building up, accomplishing, or acquiring of something. But they are about letting go, surrendering, and living with a vulnerable and open heart. It does not mean that we run away or isolate ourselves from the realities of our life and world. It means we engage them in a different way, in Jesus’ way. The beatitudes teach us to trust God more than the external circumstances of our lives. Jesus, when giving us the beatitudes, invites us to be dependent on God rather than self-reliant.
In our world today there’s a lot of weakness and foolishness. But even God sometimes chose what is foolish to shame the wise and what is weak to shame the strong. The beatitudes are nothing less than the way of the cross. The fullest expression of a “beatitudinal life” is seen in Jesus’ crucifixion. If we live the beatitudes they will take us to the cross.
We celebrate today the Solemnity of All Saints. The saints did not just know the beatitudes but they live them, they became their way of life. The saints that we celebrate today totally renounced the things of the earth in order to gain only heaven. If we totally give up everything, our possessions, our gifts, our talents, our earthly relationships, then God will put them back together in a way we could never have been imagined. We can see that beatitudes affect not only our external attitudes, but our internal attitudes. That’s the life that our saints lived. They lived a life that is different.
The beatitudes are not so much about what we do, our actions, but how we do, our being. I think they are less about actions but more about relationships. To live the beatitudes is to live a life of reckless, enthusiastic, self-abandonment to God and our neighbor. That is called love. The only reason we can do that is because we know and trust ourselves to have already been blessed by God. We live the beatitudes as a response to God’s blessings to us. That is the way of Christ. That is not only the way forward through this life; it is the way to eternal life. If we are to follow Christ, it must become our way.