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"Blessed are you"

January 30, 2011

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Of all the pages in the Gospel, the Beatitudes are those most read and admired. Gandhi thought them sublime. Others too have considered them spiritual ideals and struggled to put them into practice. The Eight Beatitudes introduce the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in Matthew’s Gospel. They are the evangelist’s way of presenting Jesus as the new Moses, giving his people a new way of life. Matthew means this to be an unfolding, a practical presentation of what he calls ‘the good news of the reign of God’. And what is that news? God loves us as we are - poor, sick, outcast, sorrowful. And his love will transform us and make us blessed. In themselves the Beatitudes are paradoxical. This is because it is natural to desire wealth and prosperity and shun their opposite. We believe that wealth will make us happy, that possessions will keep us content. So why does Jesus present happiness as arising from poverty, meekness, compassion and the like? This goes against the grain. Jesus wants us to realize that God loves not just the rich, but those who are poor and oppressed. In fact He has a special love for the poor and the meek. Ordinary people - the meek, the sorrowful, those defrauded of justice, the honest and compassionate - are much closer to the Lord than we believe. The Beatitudes say, God knows your condition. God is with you. The ‘good news’ is preached to you, specially. The kingdom of heaven is yours. Conventional wisdom thinks the opposite. The rich and successful consider themselves closer to God because of what they have. But Jesus turns the conventional wisdom on its head. You are happy and blessed even though you don’t have much, says Jesus, even though you are exploited and oppressed and sorrowful. Don’t think you are god-forsaken, no! God has a special care for you. All through his public life, Jesus went out of his way to show how much he cared for the poor, the sick and the outcast. They were truly the ‘chosen people’. And by his works, Jesus made the beatitudes come true.
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