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 being human. We hear them today as the first lesson from Matthew’s gospel which will be read on weekdays until September.
Although most enumerations give only eight beatitudes in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, 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 a new motive for behaving righteously, 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 imitate them. They rile, for example, at the thought of being “poor in spirit.” This does not mean that we should have a negative attitude, but that we should live first and foremost for God and not for ourselves. Jesus is saying that when we live by such faith, we end with abundance not deprivation.