From the Desk of Father Davis
Each time we have been to the Holy Land, our pilgrimage group has had the blessed opportunity to visit the Mount of Beatitudes. Its pristine landscape, along the hillside which cascades down toward the Sea of Galilee, provides a breath-taking view of beauty and nature in full array. Without question, the ambience naturally contains the experience of peaceful stillness, calm, and serenity. It’s actually difficult not to breathe in the graces of being in such a holy and tranquil place. That Galilean hillside is always the location of one of the inspiring Masses, which we celebrate outdoors in the open air with a view to rival all settings. It was in this context, according to Saint Matthew, that Jesus fed the 5,000 and gave his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” This weekend’s Gospel selection, however, is the Lucan version, somewhat of a recapitulation or “sum-up” of the Matthean account. Saint Luke, as you can tell, is even more poignant and direct regarding the implications of some our Lord’s original statements that day. With the people’s stomachs satiated and their minds in a state of ease, Jesus directed words to them that sought to nurture their souls, presenting them a message which at first glance seemed difficult to grasp, but intuitively deeply resonated within them. On that occasion, Jesus sought to turn conventional wisdom on its head and usher in an era of hope and trust in the God who has life’s ultimate word. Seated on the rock ledge that day, speaking to thousands of hearers, our Lord appealed to their spiritual imaginations and the deepest longings of their souls. The teaching Christ invited his hearers to experience blessedness. He invites us to do the same again today.
You will notice in today’s Gospel there are only four beatitudes mentioned: 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, exclude you, insult you, and denounce you. Each of these statements begins with the tone-setting word “blessed.” Roget’s International Thesaurus captures a bit of the sentiment of this important word, which in many ways is the interpretative key and goal of Jesus’ instructions that day, surely fostering hope in the hearts of the people, and a greater trust in God’s providence. The secular synonyms for the word “beatitude” or “blessed” are happiness, contentment, delectation, satisfaction, peace of mind, composure, well-being, felicity, joyfulness, fulfillment, blessedness, and beatitude. If we are honest about it, any of these words would probably serve as a welcome antidote to the hurt, and heaviness of heart of anyone who has ever endured suffering or lack of acceptance. They are certainly antonyms for the aggression, divisiveness, and waywardness of our contemporary culture, not to mention the evidences of godless selfishness in our modern day.
So many of us have felt need at some point in our lives. So many of us have had deep longings and hungers that long for fulfillment. So many of have felt grief and the great emotion of a broken human heart. So many of us have felt rejection in our homes, among our classmates, our so-called friends, or social circles. So many of us have even been maligned (perhaps by family, let alone politicians) for holding the tenets of our treasured Catholic faith as the guiding principles of our daily lives. Anti-Catholicism, indeed, looms large in our contemporary civic society and culture. If we allow them, so many things in modern life can rob us of the inner peace which we all so desperately seek. We need to be reminded that God has the final and ultimate word on the meaning of life. We embarrass ourselves when we pridefully think that we have it “all together,” while simultaneously there are so many things on the Lord’s “to-do” list. Pride, miserly self-sufficiency, personal arrogance, classism and having a superiority complex are spiritual toxins that blind our eyes to the agenda of the Gospel, and the ultimate meaning of life.
Against the social mores of the day which intrude on our God-given dignity and self-worth, may we find calm, peaceful stillness, tranquility, and yes, “blessedness” by cultivating a deep hope and trust in the providence of our merciful and loving God, who alone has the final word.