Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 17:1-5; Matthew 5:1-12)
A recent photograph of Pope Benedict captures some of the drama in today’s gospel. The picture shows the pope looking out from a window of the Vatican over a crowd of 120,000 people. All eyes are on him just as the gathering before Jesus on the mountain give him its complete attention. He sits down not to relax but to indicate his authority as a judge today always sits in her courtroom. The words he utters are intended for his disciples standing before him, but the crowd is by no means excluded from hearing his message. Indeed, just as his words will begin to form his disciples, who have only recently been called, so they will arouse the interest of the vast assembly.
We are familiar with the content of Jesus’ address. We call the segment given today “the beatitudes,” a word meaning “blessings.” Jesus is telling the people what it is like to be his disciples. To us it does not sound like fun to be “poor in spirit,” in mourning, or “persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” But Jesus not only insists that such conditions are blessed when experienced in his company; he actually names the blessings. His followers are in possession of the kingdom and comforted by the king. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict offers an example of a disciple testifying to the glory received under the duress of following Jesus. St. Paul writes the Corinthians of his hardships: “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body” (II Cor 4:8-10).