Fr Brendan Nolan
The Liturgy of The Word today brings us to the core wisdom revealed in Jesus Christ. In today’s Gospel, heart speaks to heart; it is the divine heart of Christ speaking to all who will listen. From the verses preceding today’s text we know that Jesus had spent the night in prayer in the mountains and that from this ambience of prayer he calls his twelve apostles, after this, with them as His companions He reaches the described piece of level ground. Here on this piece of level ground the Dramatis Personae increases greatly in number and in variety; We are distinctly told of large crowds from Jerusalem, Judaea and the coastal regions of Tyre and Sidon. While the cast is of epic proportions, we are also distinctly told that Jesus fixed his eyes on his disciples. They are the committed. They are the ones who will most likely hear at the deepest level and perceive and understand and many more from the rest of this huge cast will most likely be drawn in as His words are uttered.
While our translation of the Gospel, in proclaiming the beatitudes repeats the Word “Happy” it seems the term “Blessed” is more apt as it gives us a deeper understanding of Jesus and brings us closer to the original text. Thus, we will read “Blessed are the Poor: yours is the kingdom of God” and “Blessed are the Hungry: you shall be satisfied”. Obviously the state of being “Blessed” in poverty is not the same thing as being secure in comfort. Rather this Blessedness in poverty is contained at the deepest level of our being wherein we know that we belong to God, God owns us, in a timeless way, and that in and through this poverty we own God.
Those who listened to Jesus on that day had an awareness of the Poor of the Old Covenant who surrendered to God completely and so they grasped, more easily than we do, such inner knowing. This inner knowing is itself the ‘granted reward’, spoken of in the Gospel and very much experienced in the here and now. Inherent in it is the divine whisper of coming to fruition in eternity. His disciples, not only on that piece of level ground, but His disciples of every time and place will ponder and seek this inner knowing. Being owned by God and owning God brings alive the Lord’s Prayer; “Give us today our Daily Bread”. This implies abandonment to God’s providence more than even the attitude of sensible accumulation. It finds most wonderful expression in Lk 21:1-4 in the narrative of the Widows Mite. It is also expressed in the prayer of abandonment of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the French Trappist:
“I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Such a disposition grants freedom and bursts wide open the illusion of material ownership. Today’s First Reading, taken in tandem with today’s psalm forms a superb echo chamber resounding with the fruit of this inner knowing, rendering the possessor unto
“A tree that is planted beside the flowing water, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade”
It is in today’s Second Reading from First Corinthians that the complete human fulfilment (in terms of Holy Scripture - human Glory) promised in these Beatitudes, is brought to perfection; “Christ has been raised from the dead the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep”. In his Oratorio, “Messiah” the composer George Fredrick Handel spills out the most evocative notes on that one phrase “The first fruits of all who have fallen asleep”. As these words are sung to light accompaniment, the listener knows well that we who journey in this inner knowing are the next fruits in Blessedness. Catching the hem of the garment of The Lord’s Ascension we too will go through the veil into that reality where Lazarus is poor no longer.