Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 3, 2008

Zephaniah 2: 3, 3: 12-13

1 Corinthians 1: 26-31

Matthew 5: 1-12a

Explanatory Note:
"Happy": The Beatitudes are a discourse of revelation which tells that salvation is the absolute and gratuitous gift of God. They tell us what God does for people. They are not God's program conditioned by our human decisions but an absolutely free gift. They are not a law code but a call to a fundamental life choice. We don't have to seek salvation; we have only to welcome it. The joy proclaimed by the Beatitudes is the fruit of the Spirit. This joy is not just superficial nor passing. It accompanies those who welcome the gift of God -- who accept to walk day after day humbly before their God.

The Beatitudes are presented as the fulfillment of the Covenant. The first serves as the interpretative key for the others: the Christian is poor in spirit. Under the prophetic influence (cf. Zeph. 2, 3) the terms "poor" and "humble" had taken on a religious value in the Old Testament: the poor person is the one who places his trust in God's judgment. The second Beatitude (v. 4) is a commentary on the first influenced by Psalm 37, 11 : the poor will possess the earth, rejoice with great peace. The original Hebrew of this verse speaks of the poor and the Septuagint of the meek; the two adjectives are synonyms. They will possess the promised land, will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The third Beatitude (v. 5) recalls those who suffer, those who are being tried; they can hope for divine consolation. The fourth Beatitude (v. 6) speaks of those who hunger and thirst for justice; they will be satisfied by the Lord. The fifth Beatitude (v. 7) praises mercy: God is merciful to the one who shows mercy. Mercy is the forgiveness offered among brothers and sisters, it is the condition for receiving God's pardon. This Beatitude praises the one who fulfills the essential of divine mercy.

The sixth Beatitude (v. 8) took its inspiration from Psalm 23, 3-6 in which the man of pure heart and innocent hands can go up to the Temple. The pure of heart are those who are straightforward and simple, whose exterior conduct is consistent with its deep motivations. The seventh Beatitude (v. 9) for the peacemakers recalls all those who work for reconciliation. They are called children of God, and will be recognized as such by their resemblance to God. The eighth Beatitude (v. 10) reveals that mercy, purity, peacemaking and reconciliation are all works of justice. Such attitudes, however, excite opposition and persecution because they reveal a Kingdom that is unacceptable for the violent and the powerful who want to dominate the world.

The ninth Beatitude declares that when a disciple experiences the intimate joy of being associated with Christ in his Passion, he realizes that the Kingdom of God has arrived.

This teaching of Jesus is a revelation. From this point on, adherence to his discourse means adherence to his Person. The Beatitudes are acceptable only to the one who gives his allegiance and faith to the one who speaks them. On hearing the Beatitudes, the listener is reminded of his vocation, a vocation to happiness. But the invitation to happiness is an exacting invitation which calls one's life into question - and transforms it. The invitation engages and can only be welcomed in fidelity and obedience. Grace does not suppress responsibility; it has, on the contrary, created it. Each one has perhaps to ask him/herself what decision concerning my life will be my response to this gracious offer? How am I going to be faithful to the freedom I have received?

Lord, let us contemplate the Beatitudes in Jesus and thus learn to be a disciple. Saint Paul tells us: To reveal yourself, you have chosen what is weak, foolish, little and scorned in this world. To be like You, grant us the courage to choose the same poor and powerless means of Jesus Christ.

—Sophie Ramond, R.A.