Sunday Reflection with Father Terry Tastard - 14 February 2010

Mount of the Beatitudes and Sea of Galilee

Mount of the Beatitudes and Sea of Galilee

When Biblical scholars look at the Beatitudes (Luke 6.17, 20-26) they are struck by the similarity between Jesus and Moses. Moses assembled the Hebrew people and delivered the Law, summarised in what we now call the Ten Commandments. This became a way of life for the people.  Jesus, too summons his flock around them, not twelve tribes this time but twelve disciples who will, nonetheless, become the nucleus of the Church. And you could say that in the Beatitudes he gives them their code to be their way of life.
In many ways the Beatitudes turn our expectations upside-down. It is the poor, for example, who are rich. Rich, perhaps, because of the fellowship and sense of shared vision which unites those who follow God in Christ. By contrast the materially wealthy may become isolated and fearful in their wealth.  The caution that wealth brings can mean that they miss out on this shared adventure we call the Kingdom.  We have to see the first reading (Jer. 17.5-8) in this light.  Jeremiah sees human wisdom as losing touch with something crucial if it drifts away from God.  In a completely secular world we may know more and more, but how we apply what we know is what makes the difference.  It is only too easy to become indifferent..

Humankind without any spiritual element can very easily become dehumanised.  Another paradox: according to Jesus, it is the hungry who are to be envied, because they shall be filled with good things. It could mean the literally hungry, and be a promise that God will one day God will give them what this life has not given.  Or it could mean those who are metaphorically hungry, those who refuse to settle for the way the world is, and who hunger to see a fairer, more just world, and work to bring that world into being.  Literally or metaphorically it challenges us, and provokes us to meditation. Indeed, we know from experience that to be bloated can dull our senses and make us less aware of our world. Literally and metaphorically, our arteries harden.
Perhaps the parallel form of the Beatitudes in Matthew (5.3-12) is easier to grasp, but ultimately both versions aim at the same thing: to subvert our ordinary way of thinking, and invite us to see the world again, through different eyes. It gives us a picture of the people that Jesus wishes to call into being. It gives us, in fact, a glimpse of the promised land to which he is leading us a world in which we no longer live for ourselves, but instead, with open hearts and generous hands truly care for one another. A world we make real through the faith we share with others and our openness to God. 

Like many older people, I grew up on a version of the Beatitudes which used the world 'blessed' rather than 'happy' and I have to say that it was the better translation by far. Happiness is often a transitory thing.  It comes and it goes.  To be blessed, on the other hand, is to have within you a source of joy, consolation, encouragement and  strength which is always there, in good times and in bad.  In fact, it is often in difficult times that we are more likely to realise our blessings..  In easy times we take them for granted. 

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.
For more information see:  

Share this story