We are accustomed to hearing the Beatitudes expressed passively, i.e. in accepting or allowing what happens to us without our active response. Archbishop Em Elias Chacour writes: ‘Blessed is the translation of the word makarioi, used in the Greek New Testament. However, when I look further back to Jesus’ Aramaic, I find that the original word was ashray which does not have this passive quality to it at all. Instead, it means to set yourself on the right way for the right goal; to get up, go ahead, do something.’ Jesus is not talking about doing virtuous deeds so we’ll be rewarded later. He is talking about making transformational choices so that we will experience eternal life now. He is asking us to make the choice to:
- be poor, ‘begging for the things of the spirit, gratefully receiving every gift of insight, every gift of each enlightened moment, every gift of each experience of unconditional love, every gift of growth in awareness of our oneness with everyone and everything;
- be hungry and ‘find our deepest aliveness within God’s aliveness; – be open when we experience the brutal emptiness of mourning, believing that the tendrils of our grief trailing out into the unknown become intertwined in a greater love that holds all things together’;
- ‘trust God more than the external circumstances of our lives.’
The followers of Jesus must have struggled to understand and accept his teaching. There are times in our lives when our life situation is so overwhelming that the last thing we want anyone to say to us is, “Be happy” – even if that person is Jesus!
Eckhart Tolle differentiates between our life situation and our life. ‘There is something within you that remains unaffected by the transient circumstances of your life situation, and only through surrender do you have access to it. It is your life, your very Being.’
When we are experiencing the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of difficult life situations, the something we do may simply be to turn to ‘our little survival strategies, our rituals of nurturance, that we know if we’re faithful to them, we will be more grounded, more present. It might be a real, real, long hot shower, a walk around the block, being in touch with nature, a phone call, making muffins, having a sip of tea. In that rested state, grounded in who we are in God, we can then move forward as best we can to touch with love the hurting places in ourselves and others.’
We will then experience the Kingdom of Heaven, ‘which is really a metaphor for a radical transformation of consciousness.’
Gospel Luke 6:12,20-26
Jesus came down with the twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.
Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now: you shall laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall grow hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.
“Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.