Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; Seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; They shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.
Refrain: Blessed the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!
1) The Lord keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. (Refrain:)
2) The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down.
The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers. (Refrain:)
3) The fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia. (Refrain:)
Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord."
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL. This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
- A Sunday School teacher asked her young scholars if anyone could tell the class what the Beatitudes are. While the rest of the class thought about the possible answer, little Suzy, raised her hand excitedly, fairly bursting with the answer. "Oh, teacher, I know, I know, I know! The Beatitudes are the attitude we ought to be at!"
Christ became one like us for two reasons: to rescue us from the slavery of sin and to show us how to live. There is no better place in all of the gospels where he passes on this knowledge than in the Beatitudes.
There is some basic information which we ought to realize about the Beatitudes. First of all, the Sermon on the Mount is not one single sermon which Jesus preached on one definite occasion; it is rather the summary of his consistent teaching to his disciples over the course of time. In last week’s gospel, we heard him calling his first disciples. It would be totally logical that, having selected his band of followers, he would take them aside for a period of intensive training before they too would be sent forth to preach his message. Another clue to support this meaning can be found in today’s gospel where it says that Jesus began to teach his disciples when he had sat down. “When a Jewish Rabbi was teaching officially he sat down. We still speak of a professor's chair; the Pope still speaks ‘ex cathedra’, that is, from his seat. Often a Rabbi taught when he was standing or moving about; but his really official teaching was done when he had taken his seat. So, then, the very intimation that Jesus sat down to teach his disciples is the indication that this teaching is central and official.” (1)
The second thing is that each of the beatitudes are not really statements but exclamations. A more correct translation would be "O the blessedness of..." The implications of this difference are profound. In essence, "the blessedness which belongs to the Christian is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exists here and now. It is not something into which the Christian will enter; it is something into which he has (already) entered." (emphasis added)(1)
Lastly, we should know something about the word for blessed in Greek, which is makarios. "Makarios describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life. The English word happiness gives its own case away. It contains the root ‘hap’ which means chance. Human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life, something which life may give and which life may also destroy. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. ‘No one,’ said Jesus, ‘will take your joy from you’ (Jn.16:22)." (1)
I believe that these very basic principles of the beatitudes are well exemplified by the following true story.
- Except for her passionate love of South Africa, Amy Biehl was a typical Southern California kid, a straight-A student and a college diving champion who would end her diatribes against apartheid with the words `Free Mandela!'. So it was not surprising that when she won a Fulbright scholarship, she opted to go to South Africa and immerse herself in the country's culture and politics.
But her young life ended abruptly in 1994 when she was stoned and stabbed to death by a mob of angry, young, black militants. She was killed by the very people whose lot in life she was trying to improve.
But instead of being angry with her murderers, her parents did something so atypical that it boggles the mind. The Biehls dealt with their grief by doing what they believe their daughter would have wanted: understand the fury that drove the mob, forgive the killers, and become, in effect, the patron saints of the village that her very killers came from. Her parents, Linda and Peter Biehl, decided they had to try and understand their daughter's commitment to the people for whom she had given her life. They read her diaries, in which she wrote about her admiration for those who were suffering under apartheid. The Biehls and their three other children decided that they had to go to South Africa.
Linda attended the trial of Amy's killers. They visited the squatter camps of Guguletu, the black township where Amy's killers had grown up. They came to understand how those squalid conditions could have led them to violence. Linda went into the home of one of the murderers and met with his mother. She says that after hugging her, "I walked out of that home. There was a rainbow in the sky. My heart was very light. I felt I had come to terms. And if that is forgiveness, I felt it. And I felt--you know, I felt -- I feel at peace with myself. So to me, that's forgiveness."
When asked about the Biehl's forgiveness, Rhoda Khadalie, one of Amy's professors in South Africa and a close friend said "It is a gift from God that they can forgive the killers of their daughter, meet with the mother, go into the homes of the killers and understand who they are and where they come from."
Not only did they understand, they spent much of their time in Guguletu, passing the very spot where their daughter was killed. What they've done to carry on for her is to establish the non-profit Amy Biehl Foundation. With $1/2 million in grants, donations and their own money, they have sponsored 15 programs, including welding classes and after-school programs which involve thousands of young people, all in the very community where their daughter was killed.
What the Biehls are doing is widely known in South Africa, and like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, everyone marvels at it. "The [Biehl's have] turned it all upside down," Tutu said. "It is the victims, in the depth of their own agony and pain, who are saying, `The community which produced these murderers, we want to help that community be transfigured.'" The twelve-year-old sister of one of the murderers is enrolled in the after-school program. And when her brother and the other two murderers applied for amnesty after serving four years in jail, Peter and Linda did not object, even though they could have blocked the release. (2)
I could go on with more incredible details from their efforts in South Africa, but I think you get the point. This is the message of the beatitudes. "The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away. The world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys. A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the fickle joy the world can give. But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking forever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ. The greatness of the beatitudes is that they are not wistful glimpses of some future beauty; they are not even golden promises of some distant glory; they are triumphant shouts of bliss for a permanent joy that nothing in the world can ever take away." (1)
We are called by the Beatitudes to achieve inner peace in our own lives. No matter what challenges face us, we can overcome them and "turn them upside down", as Archbishop Tutu said. Sin is a separation from our fellow human beings. The Biehls could very easily have let their normal, human feelings of anger, resentment, hatred and bitterness over the loss of their daughter take control of their lives and separate them from the people of Guguletu and her murderers. But they used understanding and forgiveness to transcend these feelings. Although there is nothing that will ever bring their daughter back to life (and that grief will always be with them), they have used her death to "adopt" many more children in that village and give them the possibility of a prosperous life which would never have been possible before. They have given us a vivid example of what we must do if we are to live our own lives in imitation of the example of Christ who gave his own life that we might become adopted children of God and heirs of eternal life in heaven. Our lives must be a constant striving to make the Beatitudes the "attitudes that we are at".
1. From The Gospel of Matthew, copyright 1975 by William Barclay, St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. Reprinted with permission.
2. Amy Biehl Adapted from 60 Minutes, CBS News, January 17, 1999. Transcripts available from Burrell's at Burrelle@aol.com
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
Lord Jesus, you are our wisdom and our justice. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you are our sanctification and our redemption. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you are the one who showed us the way to the Father. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Our Lord gave us the Beatitudes to show us how to be truly happy. Confident of God's love for us, we bring our needs to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the church will be living examples of the Beatitudes in the lives of their flock, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will treat their citizens with justice and respect, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the terminally ill and those who grieve the loss of a loved one will come to know the healing presence of Christ, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of the Church will reveal the love of God to others through their caring concern, we pray to the Lord.
That all those affected by natural disasters may be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, you chose the world's poor and despised to reduce to nothing those who were something. In imitation of your Son's example, grant us the grace of your Spirit to place our trust in you and not in the things of this world. And we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.