Beatitudes

Deacon Bob Hart

In the gospel today, which is taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. We are all familiar with th e Beatitudes. It is often said that the Beatitudes are a call for us to go beyond the Ten Commandments because they give us a way to bring the commandments to life.

The Beatitudes are challenging to say the least. They invite us to recognize our need for God and his grace, to be poor in spirit. They challenge us to mourn the things in this life that lead us away from God and each other.

The Beatitudes encourage us to seek the inner strength to restrain unnecessary anger and hostility when we are being challenged. To be willing to bear and accept others’ faults. To be people of mercy and compassion and who thirst and hunger for justice and peace.

The Beatitudes challenge us to believe that as Christians, there will be suffering when we advocate for justice and peace because not everyone will follow or believe what Jesus gives us here as a model for life. In short, the beatitudes all state the very essence of the Gospel.

Right now with what is taking place in our country in so many cities regarding injustice and discrimination, all of us should be struggling in our hearts with what can we do personally that can help make a change in our life and in our society. And I say struggle because it is truly a struggle.

So many times in our history this issue of injustice and discrimination has surfaced. And it is not just about one race of people, it is about all races, all stages of life, including the unborn. And each time it surfaces, some issues are addressed, but never enough. And eventually, the seriousness of it all fades into the background and out of focus. But only to surface again at some later time. It is a struggle for us to find ways in our own personal life and to help others to bring about effective and lasting change.

There was a story that appeared on the front page of the Courier Journal yesterday and it appeared on the internet as well, that I think gives us a good example of taking an opportunity to put injustice in it’ place. And personally I think it is a great example of what the beatitudes mean although as far as I know God was never mentioned in the encounter.

The story was about the protests taking place in the streets of Louisville actually the week before last. It involves a Louisville police officer on duty who found himself alone and a facing protestors yelling profanities and making threatening gestures. He placed himself in front of a pizza store so he could keep his back to the wall. But he knew he was in serious trouble with help several blocks away.

He was scared because he knew it would only take one person to start serious trouble and then many others would jump in. There were too many of them and he was prepared to be injured or worse. But then a man emerged from the crowd and placed himself between the officer and the closest protestor. And then four other men, all strangers, joined him, locking and linking arms to protect the officer. Five men, three black, one white and one Dominican joined together because they said a human being was in trouble. They said they were all scared but right is right.

The quotes coming from these five guys afterwards are Beatitude kinds of stuff. One said “If I can hold my brothers accountable, if I can march with my brothers and turn against them to say, this isn’t right, that’s where the accountability comes in”.

Another said “This shouldn’t be an extraordinary event, it should be the norm” And the officer said, “It was a moment where strangers came together to help another stranger and that stranger was me”.

If we can use the beatitudes to help us to take advantage of opportunities to promote justice and peace we will find our society improving. Maybe slowly and perhaps we will step backwards sometimes, but we will be moving forward.

Today, a good exercise might be to go back and read the Beatitudes again. Look at which beatitude is the most difficult for us to try to live out. Spend time with it. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.