Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sunday Word

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13
1 Cor 1:26-31
Mt 5:1-12a

Here are texts that deserve our reading, prayer and pondering in preparation for Sunday's celebration. While the Gospel is quite familiar to all of us,we do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss a familiar passage with an "Oh-I-know-this-one" attitude.

The Beatitudes which Jesus proclaims are so much more than just the “be-happy-attitudes.” To be blessed, in this case, is to be made privileged or fortunate by the action of  God. It carries with it a sense of salvation and peace and well-being. You might say that the opposite of blessed is not “unhappy.” But rather, the opposite of blessed is “cursed.” To be blessed is to be given the gift of divine favor, a grace, a gift that we all have a deep human hunger to receive.

Stated this way, it’s clear that the blessing of the Beatitudes is not about us, and it’s not about how we feel. Instead, it’s all about what God has done for us.

With this in mind, we can get a clearer sense of what Jesus is talking about when he describes his disciples as “blessed.” What he is saying is that these fishermen are blessed because they are experiencing the coming of God’s kingdom, and they are in the process of discovering that their lives are being reshaped by this new reality. No longer will the meaning of life be defined by the culture of the town of Capernaum, or the expectations of their extended families, or the size of the fish being pulled out of the Sea of Galilee. From now on, the dominant reality in their existence will be the kingdom of God, and the blessing of God will come to all who make a place for this kingdom in their lives.

So, what does it mean for us to make a place for the kingdom in our lives today? What kind of blessing will we experience if we allow ourselves to be transformed by the radical new reality that Jesus offers us? What kind of renewal will come our way if we take seriously the invitation to open our hearts and minds to the arrival of God’s kingdom?

The challenge for us is to open ourselves to God’s kingdom, and receive this radical new reality that Jesus is inscribing on our hearts and thus making a place for the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who open the door to the kingdom of God, says Jesus — blessed are the placemakers.