Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
The Beatitudes are one of the most recognized passages in the Bible.  And because it seems so familiar often as we hear it we think to ourselves, “Oh yeah, the Beatitudes, I know those, blessed is this and that, yeah” and we kind of tune out the rest.  That’s a shame because these are the essence of Christ’s teaching.  Quite simply they are the key to living a happy life.

If we think back to last week’s Gospel, we saw Jesus invite Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him, become his apostles.  In today’s reading He goes up on the mountain and looks out on his disciples and the great crowd that followed Him and He sees humanity as it is and tells the people how they can be when they meet Jesus.  The Jewish people had waited for centuries for the Messiah, the one who would come and restore them to the glory Yahweh promised.  Jesus proceeds to tell them they don’t have to wait any longer - the Kingdom promised to them, the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now.  And we don’t have to wait for death to experience the Kingdom of Heaven.  We can, and God intended us to, experience the Kingdom of Heaven now - by living the Beatitudes.

In fact, the first and eighth Beatitude end with “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”  The kingdom of heaven forms the brackets for all these teachings.  If you want to live in the Kingdom, this is what you have to do.  The Beatitudes are split into two groups of four.  The first four describe all who suffer in the world the way it currently is and the second group of four talks about all those who are already working to alleviate that suffering, those making the Kingdom real here on earth.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, those with no cause for hope.  Sound familiar, ever felt like that?  Personal tragedy can drain us of hope, why go on?  Blessed are they who mourn, those that have no cause for joy.  An illness, death can do that, strip us of any reason for joy.  Blessed are the meek, those that are dispossessed, exiled, no reason to keep on living.  Ask any refugee if they have ever felt like this.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those that have no access to justice.  Talk to the people who live in refugee camps and in slums, abused people with no place to turn for help or justice.  This is what their world looks like.

But in the second group of four we see God’s great reversal, how to change a world of pain and suffering to the Kingdom.  Blessed are the merciful, those who work to create hope, to give joy, to relieve others, help carry their burdens.  We have so many opportunities to do exactly that here in our parish and community.  Blessed are the pure of heart, those who judge with fairness and integrity.  How do we look on others and how do we judge them?  According to their skin color, their residency status?  Blessed are the peacemakers, those who work to establish peace, reconciliation, the “peace-enablers.”  Do we make peace in our families, forgiving those that don’t meet our standards, the children and grandchildren whose choices hurt us or ignore us?  Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, the ones who work to establish justice for all.  Do we work for, promote justice for all?  Some are obvious, justice for the unborn, but others more subtle.  A path to citizenship for undocumented individuals who have lived here most of their lives and work and contribute to the economy and tax base.  The refugees who may be refused entrance to the US because of the country they are coming from.

The Sermon on the Mount goes on for three full chapters in Matthew and we will hear “the rest of the story” over the next four weeks.  The ending of the Sermon is a contrast between wisdom and foolishness.  The foolish person is one who hears the words of Jesus and does not put them into action.  The wise person is one who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into action.  We have a choice:  act out of blessedness and be happy now and in eternity.  Or be miserable now and in eternity.