Living into the Beatitudes
- Sunday, January 29, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
Jesus is on the road moving from town to town. He has been calling disciples, healing people and now large crowds are starting to gather and follow him wherever he goes. The crowds are interested, mesmerized and cannot resist listening to every word Jesus has to say. Jesus has a message of hope and liberation that will quench the thirst and satisfy the hunger in almost anyone.
The Beatitudes are one of the best known passages in the Bible. It is recognizable anywhere to almost anyone in the same way the Lord’s Prayer is familiar to the churched and un-churched alike. When we reflect on this passage we see a very intentional message from Jesus where those who are low, downtrodden, persecuted or hungry will be raised up. The day of liberation is coming! The crowds cannot resist the picture of the Kingdom of God that the Beatitudes portray.
Within the Beatitudes we find a depth of meaning and implication that can be hard for many of us to clearly identify with. Many of us do not have the lived experience of being persecuted, hungry or thirsty for an extended period of time. Unless we have actually engaged in the ground work of peacemaking we find it hard to realize what a dangerous and volatile role this can be. Not everyone wants peace.
From the experience that the Beatitudes identify it is not hard to realize that this is how revolutions start. Think about it. When there are people and groups being oppressed for one reason or another inevitably within the oppressed there are individuals who begin to emerge to resist the oppression. We have seen this happen time and time again with civil rights movements around the world and the Anti-Apartheid movements in South Africa. The voice of freedom and liberation inevitably begins to make itself known.
For those of you who have watched the Hunger Games or read the books, this is another example of resistive movements. If you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, you really should. The Hunger Games is a story about fighting for equality and human rights. The world as Katniss Everdeen and others knows it is divided into 12 districts. District one, The Capital, being the wealthiest where all the resources and opportunities are concentrated. As you move from one district to the next, resources and opportunities and freedoms diminish. Each year, The Capital holds the Hunger Games, a grotesque televised show, where representatives from each district are forced to survive in a controlled environment. It is the survival of the fittest and a fight to the death so that in the end, only one contestant remains. It is important to realize that no one actually wins the games, but there are a few who survive. For Katniss and others, this has gone on for long enough. It is time to turn the tables around and shift the balance of power. This is their lived experience and Katniss develops into being the face of the resistance. They know first-hand what it is like to be hungry, persecuted and to fight for their lives.
For Jesus and the crowd gathered on the mountain they too know what hunger and persecution looks like. This too is their lived experience. As with any other group under oppression the voice of liberation begins to rise. From within them someone becomes known the face of a resistive movement and a person whom they can follow and will inspire others to follow. Slowly but surely this becomes a movement that is too good to resist to the point that you and I begin to follow as well.
While we may not share many of the same experiences as those who first heard the Beatitudes first-hand we are invited to join the movement. Like many other resistive movements it is not an exclusive club, reserved for the most downtrodden and lowly. This is in part why we as the Church as a whole are invited to participate in tangible ways in the work of Truth and Reconciliation for Indigenous and First Nations People. The fact that we haven’t directly oppressed or persecuted other puts us in a unique and valuable position to use our power of privilege, influence, opportunity and status to agitate for change, thirst and hunger for righteousness until everyone is free and God’s justice reigns. It is hard to imagine and admit that we are people of privilege and that we have opportunities that others don’t. It is not a question of being modest and showing off what we have in the face of those who are less fortunate. Rather this is a call to use the resources and opportunities that we do have for the greater good. This is our work, the work of the Church.