Shocking Beatitudes

10 September 2008 Wednesday of the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 6, 20-26 Shocking Beatitudes

Though the venue for Jesus’ teaching the Beatitudes vary in Matthew (on the mountain) and in Luke (on the plain), the gist of the Beatitudes is coherent. If Moses’ mark is the Ten Commandments, the mark of Jesus’ teaching is the Beatitudes. To Jesus, the Beatitudes is the way to true and authentic happiness. If one looks closely at the teachings, one gets surprised. The Beatitude gets what is ordinarily acceptable and turns it upside down. Having material possessions is what we normally think would make us comfortable; but Jesus said that poverty and simplicity would make us really at peace. Having the pleasures of the world to rejoice about will make us empty and wanting; but mortification will make us whole and satisfied. For those who look at pleasure and believe in the world’s standards, they would get their payment in full in this world, but never in the next. But those who have suffered for their faith, may not get compensated now, but will be in eternity.

The Beatitudes therefore is radical. It does not agree with the standards of the world. It does not compromise higher value, to gain people’s acceptance. Bundled up together, the Beatitudes are Jesus’ standards. And the opposite, are Satan’s standard.

The Meditation on the Two Standards in the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola challenges the retreatant to consider whose standards they would bear. The Meditation encourages the retreatant to make a decision. They either choose Christ or choose Satan.

But our experience tells us that this is easily said than done. For many pious individuals, they have a ready answer: Of course, we choose Christ! This ready answer falls short when they get angry or lonely. It is easy to say we choose Christ when we are in a good mood, or when nothing bothers us. But when the temptation to be physically violent upon the persuasion of a strong emotion, choosing Christ becomes all the more important. In the influence of anger, for example, many have abandoned their holy allegiance.

We have to look at our lives developmentally. We fall. We learn. We make decisions. The key is in the shockable effect of the Beatitudes. They shock so that we may think and reflect. They are to wake us up into its very truth. And thus, convinced, we would fight under the banner of Christ.

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