Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
(II Corinthians 1:1-7; Matthew 5:1-12)
It was said that Fr. John Powell, S.J., could keep a church basement full of people sitting on metal chairs attentive to his talk for two hours. The marvelous communicator wrote about Jesus’ beatitudes as the “Be Attitudes” -- dispositions that promised the fullness of life. We hear them in context today as the first installment from Matthew’s gospel which will be read on weekdays for most of the summer (or winter in the Southern Hemisphere).
Although catechisms sometimes list only eight beatitudes in Matthew, there are actually nine. The first four (blessed are the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, and those desiring righteousness) speak of passive attitudes necessary to align one with God. The second four (the merciful, the clean of heart, peacemakers, and those who suffer persecution) indicate one’s actively carrying out the divine will. The long ninth beatitude reiterates what is said in the previous one but gives it a new purpose, Jesus himself. It conveys Matthew’s belief that the kingdom of God has arrived in Jesus.
The beatitudes are so countercultural that most people do not understand them, let alone want to imitate them. They rile at the thought of being “poor in spirit.” This does not mean that we should have a negative attitude, but that we should trust in God as those without resources are inclined to do. The irony that Jesus intends to convey is that when we live by such faith, we end up rewarded and not deprived.