The Sermon on the Mount is said to contain the essence of Christ’s teaching. If that is so, then the Beatitudes are the essence of that essence. They contain the qualities Christ wishes to see in his followers, qualities which are a complete reversal of conventional values and standards. (In what follows two voices could be used.)
Happy are the poor in spirit …
The world says: Happy are you who are well-off. You can have whatever you want. Be glad and rejoice when the money is coming in fast. Never stop to ask by what means or at whose expense. You will be the envy of all.
Christ says: Happy are you who put your trust in God rather than in money. Happy you who realise that it is not the amount of possessions you have that makes you truly rich but the kind of person you are. You will be rich in God’s eyes, and that’s what matters.
Happy you who are gentle …
The world says: Happy you the tough guys. You who throw your weight about. You who are ruthless. You’ll get results.
Christ says: Happy you who are gentle and kind. You who refuse to get only trampling on others. You are the truly great.
Happy you who mourn …
The world says: Happy are you who live it up. Remember you only live once. So let your hair down. Always strive to keep yourself high on something or other. Life will be great fun.
Christ says: Happy are you who remember that the most valuable things in life have to be bought with sacrifice. You who don’t confuse real happiness with cheap and passing thrills. Even though you may sow in sorrow, you will reap the rewards of a good life with joy.
Happy you who hunger and thirst for what is right …
The world says: Happy are you who hunger for power, status, and fame. Never stop to ask if something is right. Ask only if it beneﬁts you. You will always be in the limelight.
Christ says: Happy are you who have standards and values, and who are prepared to live up to them. You who realise that to live well is what life is about, and who rate that even more important than eating and drinking. You will taste real happiness.
Happy you who are merciful …
The world says: Happy are you who always insist on beating your opponent. You who show no mercy or forgiveness to those who make mistakes, in case people would take advantage of you. You’ll be the boss, and everybody will know it.
Christ says: Happy are you who are able to make allowances for the mistakes, sins, and faults of others, and whose greatness lies in your ability to forgive and forget. You who can show kindness and compassion even to those who oppose you. The sun of God‘s mercy will shine warmly on you.
Happy you who are pure of heart …
The world says: Happy you whose fingernails are always clean; whose hands are always soft; whose teeth are always shining; and who keep up to date with the latest style of clothes. You will be really with it. ‘
Christ says: Happy you who consider a clean mind more important than clean ﬁngernails; a good conscience more important than clean hands; a kind and truthful tongue more important than clean teeth; and who consider it more important to be a genuine person than to wear the latest style of clothes. You will be able to find God in the world.
Happy who you are peacemakers …
The world says: Happy you who are always stirring things up. You who get satisfaction out of spreading gossip about others. You who lord it over others and who have no qualms about exploiting the poor and the weak. People will be forced to take notice of you.
Christ says: Happy you who work to unite people by helping to spread understanding among them. You who welcome the stranger. You who work for a more just society, thus laying the foundations of lasting peace. You will shine out like a light in the darkness.
Happy you who are persecuted for what is right…
The world says: Happy you who always fit in, and who never rock the boat. Happy you who know how to cheat and steal, lie and deceive, and who manage to get off scott free. You’ll have a good laugh.
Christ says: Happy you who stick up for what is right and true, not what is popular. You who could do wrong but who don’t. If you lose promotion and other perks, and if people laugh at you and consider you a fool as a result, don’t let that worry you. I promise you, you’ll have the last laugh in the Kingdom of Heaven.
‘A man who fails well is better than a man who succeeds badly.’ (Thomas Merton).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Let us pray to our heavenly Father for those qualities Christ wanted to see in his followers, so that we may experience the joy and peace he promised. R. Lord, hear our prayer.
That Christians may realise that there is only one kind of poverty they should fear, namely, poverty of heart – a heart where there is no love, or peace, or joy. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
That all our leaders may be gentle in their dealings with others, especially with the weak and vulnerable members of society. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
For those who mourn the loss of a loved one: that Christ may comfort them. For those who suffer for doing what is right: that Christ may strengthen them. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
That we may be true peacemakers in our homes, among our neighbours, and at work. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, you want to see in us the qualities you saw and loved in Jesus. Give us the grace to imitate him more closely, and to follow him more faithfully. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.
SIGN OF PEACE
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your disciples, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called the children of God.’ Help us to put an end to all ﬁghting and quarreling, so that we may enjoy the peace and unity of your kingdom, where you live for ever and ever.
Vincent van Gogh experienced many difﬁculties
in the course of his short life as a painter.
From a worldly point of view
that life seemed to be a total failure.
But he didn’t see it like this.
‘It is true that sometimes I have earned my bread,
and sometimes a friend has given it to me in charity.
It is true that my ﬁnancial affairs are in a sad state.
It is true that my future looks gloomy.
It is true that I might have done better.
It is true that my studies have been neglected,
and that my needs are greater than my possessions.
But is this what you call going downhill?
Is that What you call doing nothing?
On the contrary, this is a powerful stream
that will bear me safely to port.’