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Buzzword – Immortality!
Apocalypse 7: 2-14: With imagery bordering on the fantastic, St. John seeks to encourage the early Christian community during a time of fierce persecution. The hope of eternal union with God is as valid for us as it was for those suffering persecution because of their commitment to Christ.
John 3: 1-3: This first letter of St. John speaks of the real relationship that exists between God and People. This relationship is acknowledged by the performance of good works leading to becoming permanent citizens in the eternal city of God.
Matthew 5: 1-12: Few passages are as well known, or quoted as frequently, as this passage known universally as the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes. However, because of poor translations and the fact that words have different meaning in different languages and in different social environments, one needs to look closely at the original meanings to understand Christ’s words.
Point 1: Of all the paradoxical statements made by Christ during his public ministry, few are more so than those we have just heard. They represent a moral teaching that was out of kilter with conventional standards accepted then and which, even today, is not totally accepted. The great bulk of people in Christ’s time were poor. Wealth and power were possessed by the minority. But Christ wanted His words to be heard and understood by all – wealthy or poor. So let us look a little more closely at what it is that Christ is saying because there has to be a deeper significance that that which first meets the eye.
Point 2: The greeting “Blessed” or “Happy” was a congratulatory statement and was used in the sense of a promis of reward for virtue practised. In English “Blessed” comes closer to the original meaning. Looking now at the eight declarations we see:
Poor in spirit – Anyone, - wealthy, powerful, poor or weak- has need to recognise a spiritual dimension to living. Those who recognise this are ‘blessed’, because they admit that without such a dimension, life is impoverished.
Gentle – As distinct from being proud, arrogant or assertive. Admitting that oneneeds guidance as to how life should be lived.
Mourn – those who are discouraged or depressed by the evil of the world and who regret their own sinfulness.
Hunger and Thirst – a desire for a good relationship with God and a recognition that righteousness comes from personal effort combined with god’s help.
Merciful – Compassion, a consant theme in the Scriptures involving almsgiving and forgiveness.
Pure in Heart – Sincerity in word and action; notliving behind a façade.
Peacemakers – Those who make up after quarrels – reconciliation.
8 Persecution – Already a pattern of opposition to Christ was emerging and his disciples were being persecuted.
Conclusion: This pattern of behaviour has continued down through the centuries. Fidelity in the face of oppositions merits rewards. In these statements a pattern of Christian practise that can only be understood in terms of eternal union with the Creator. Today’s Feast and Liturgy are powerful reminders of this aspect of our Faith.
Scriptural reference: But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died and their departure was though to be a disaster and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality (Wisdom 3: 1)