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The Beatitudes:

It is easy to see from today’s Gospel that Jesus is beginning something new. He is saying something new, and he is asking for something new. He starts everything he says today with those words: “You have learnt how it was said in the past, but I say this to you now in the present” He has come, as he tells us from the beginning of the Gospel to inaugurate the “Kingdom of God”. He has come to begin a new way of thinking, a new way of relating, a new way of doing business, and a new way of acting among his people. He has come to create a new society built on the commandments and interpreted through the beatitudes.

The beatitudes are the new way of interpreting the commandments. The commandments are still the foundation of the new society he wants to create among us, but they are to be understood through the new mind, and heart created in us through the eight beatitudes. This is dramatically new. This is the difference between the time before Jesus, and the time after Jesus. It is a new beginning. Jesus has come to challenge the prevailing culture of his time, a culture that people had got used to in their lives, and a culture which they took for granted. He is upsetting the comfortable and comforting the upset. The beatitudes create the greatest revolution in our history, for they create a revolution in our minds and hearts. And that is where authentic revolution begins.

As Gods people we are to become brothers and sisters in God’s family, and we are to live as brothers and sisters. We are to become the Community of God in which old standards are turned upside down. If anyone hits us on the right cheek, we are to offer the other one as well. If someone takes our top coat we are to give him the short coat as well. If someone asks us for something we are to give him twice as mush as he asked. We are to love our enemies, and pray for those who put us down and persecute us. We are to be friendly with those who are not friendly with us, and we are to greet those who will not greet us. We are to speak well of those who speak badly of us, for we are to copy our Father who offers us his compassionate and loving forgiveness. We are now closer to each other than blood relations, or blood brothers and sisters. Those words “You have learnt how it was said to you in the past, but I say to you in the present” becomes a very dramatic way of saying: “Leave the past behind; we are making a new beginning”.

This is the meaning of the “Kingdom of God” in the Gospels. And if we fail to understand this kingdom which Christ is talking about we fail to understand any of the Gospels. The Gospel is about this new beginning, this new way of thinking and this new way of living. So as we see the commandments are a minimum for us Christians, for we must go further in bringing the commandments alive through the beatitudes. And of course this is impossible. It is impossible on our own. We need help and we need it badly. We need the Holy Spirit who lives in us. If we try to go it alone without the indwelling Spirit, we will fail miserably. We need outside or inside help. And if we forget to seek that help we will make a mess of our lives, and the lives of others around us.

Unfortunately the great blindness and weakness in our lives is the blindness and weakness of forgetting, or not seeking that help of the Holy Spirit. We can fail to admit that we need help. We can be too self contained, or too proud to ask for help. We can begin to think that we can make it on our own with our own resources, and our own gifts, but it is impossible. This is the pride of the first sin. We need God, and we need Faith to know that we need God. It is when we have reached this point of knowing, and accepting our need of God that we begin to pray. For the Christian every decision should be made after prayer. If we leave God out in prayer our decisions will be selfish, uncaring, and counter productive. This is why the Word of God says today: “Make no mistake about it: if anyone of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God” 1Cor 3: 16-23