I have the privileged of volunteering occasional Sundays at a local Youth State Prison. By liturgical “coincidence” I was asked to reflect on the Christian Beatitudes one day before remembering the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi, The Great Soul of India who changed how human beings see themselves. Below you will find my reflections. I hope you find them interesting.
The Beatitudes—January 29, 2017–Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Scriptures: Zep2: 3, 3:12-13–1Cor 1:18-31–Matthew 5:1-12
There are not many scriptural passages more familiar, yet more perplexing to us than the Beatitudes? We continue to get sideswiped with their rigorous honesty, yet most Christians continue to live our lives like we never heard them before.Many a religious person has observed that even though the world has had the Great Sermon, and the Christian ethic for over 2,000 years, we have come no nearer to achieving it and putting it into practice than Jesus’ disciples on that mountain that day. Perhaps the Sermon remains a dream or vision because the plain truth is;
That the Christian ethic is completely impossible without the Christian Action that goes with it .
In other words, we Christians like so many other religious people have yet to close the great gap between “We ought” and “ We can”. The fact is that we can do nothing to realize the ought of the Christian challenge without a real Commitment to Jesus whose grace can empower and enable us to do so. It goes something like this: When we commit to Christ we become his disciples. When we become disciples, we are called to create BELOVED, BLESSED Communities wherever we are. But we have a problem, We live in the United States of America and our new president and those who serve him and elected him are not practicing the formation of Beloved, Blessed Communities.
Let’s face it, if the beatitudes were written to accurately reflect the predominant values of the United States today, they just might read:
- Blessed are the powerful, for they shall control others.
- Blessed are the movers and the shakers, for they shall make things happen their way.
- Blessed are the strong, the young and the beautiful, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are the winners, for they shall be lauded and applauded.
- Blessed are the affluent, for they shall have what they need and want.
- Blessed are Americans, for they shall live in God’s country.
- Blessed are those in authority, for they shall possess all power and ALL truth.
I believe that our readings today help us to understand that The Power we have in our discipleship of followers of the One God. We live in world that has turned outside down in terms of the teachings of Jesus. As Christians we know that Truth will be revealed to us eventually…But in the meantime, we are called to spend our spiritual lifetimes making choices that are contradictory and paradoxical.
- As a people, the Beatitudes challenged us to live out of our vulnerability not our fears; to be willing to acknowledge and touch our weaknesses; to embrace parts of ourselves that our culture tell us we ought to eliminate.
- We are called to have poverty of the spirit in a culture that encourages us to accumulate everything we can:
- To be meek in an age where position and prestige are fashionable;
- To show mercy only when it makes interesting news to publicize other’s sins and flaws;
- To make peace when we are urged to make war.
- To keep promises and covenants with one another when we are urged to live by our own needs, wants, and fantasies.
- No wonder many of us give up on God or give up on ourselves and our search for God—it is very difficult to live in this contradiction…..Our physical, mental and emotional lives suffer in our struggle with the “We ought and the We can.”
On January 30th, we will be remembering the death of Mohandas Gandhi, the Great Soul of India. He led the Indian movement for independence and did more than any person in history to advance the theory and practice of non-violence. His influence on world affairs is infinite. Yet, he posed a special challenged to Christians.
Here he was a Hindu who politely rejected the dogmatic claims of Christianity while embracing with great consistence the ethical claims of Jesus and the teaching of the Beatitudes. For Gandhi, the non-violent struggle for independence was deeply spiritual, and not necessarily political. He believed in the identity between means and ends, and he approached each campaign as an experiment in truth, and effort to realize God’s will on earth. We ought and We Can became One goal.
Dr. Deacon Grandma–Cynthia W. Yoshitomi–January 29, 2017