Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
One of my most moving experiences on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land was our Mass on the hillside of the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Tiberias (aka., the Sea of Galilee). The shrine had written into the prayers and even the reading of the gospel of the Beatitudes the phrase “in this place”. “In this place, Jesus sat down and began to speak, saying…” “In this place, where the Son of God revealed to us the new law of freedom”, etc., etc. The phrase kept jumping off the page at me, helping me to realize we were in the very place where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes and the rest of the
Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7. I realized how powerful it would have been to hear Jesus for the first time on this mountain.
Imagine having heard the 10 Commandments from your parents and from your teachers, ever since you were a tiny child. The 10 Commandments outlined the very minimal level of the moral law. Now, here you are on this mountain with this new teacher who seems to be speaking with a wisdom straight from heaven. It’s like heaven is opening up onto earth, and your heart is being moved. Ever since childhood, the 10 Commandments seemed like something you had to “fit into”, or something that was being imposed upon you from the outside. Now you are hearing a moral law which assumes God’s help. Jesus is like a “new Moses”. (Remember, Moses gave the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai.) Although Jesus is raising the bar on morality, requiring even internal perfection, you realize he is speaking about human freedom. He is speaking about fullness of life, the capacity to love fully, with the power of God to help you.
This flows even from the very first Beatitude. The first Beatitude says “Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Poor in spirit” means we rely on God for every single breathe we take. We realize we don’t have some type of spiritual bank account upon which to rely, such that we might think we can take a break from God for a couple weeks or months, just relying on that stored-up spiritual wealth. On the contrary, the person who is poor in spirit realizes he/she always has to look to God for the power to do anything worthwhile. Given the foundation of the Beatitudes, the moral life spoken by Jesus becomes something lived from a relationship with him. Furthermore, this intense moral life results in blessedness, i.e., deep joy, deep contentedness. It fits us perfectly!
May you and I live the moral life – choosing good and avoiding what is evil – always from the context of our relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s the only way we will be successful. That’s the only way to blessedness in life.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,