The Core Attitudes of a Christian

02-17-2019Weekly ReflectionFather Prince Raja

Today's gospel contains what we call the Eight Beatitudes, or the core Attitudes of a Christian. It contains a recipe for living, and for happiness. It outlines a series of choices, and it gives us a programme for living. Today, and for the next two weeks, our Gospel reading is that teaching of Jesus which, in St. Matthew's Gospel, we know as the Sermon on the Mount. The two evangelists present essentially the same material, but there are some minor differences. Most notable, perhaps, is the setting for the sermon. While St. Matthew tells us that Jesus went up the mountain to teach, St. Luke depicts Jesus descending the mountain after prayer to teach on the level ground. For this reason St. Luke's version of Jesus' teaching is often called the Sermon on the Plain.

Both evangelists recount Jesus beginning His sermon with "beatitudes." "Blessed", "happy" are those…St. Matthew records eight such beatitudes, while St. Luke gives us only four, followed by four "woes." Despite the obvious variations in the telling of the story, the message is essentially the same in both Gospels. As familiar as the beatitudes are to us, we should today take time to reflect on their meaning once again. As a help to us in coming to a deeper appreciation of the meaning of the beatitudes, the liturgy today gives us the passage from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. In the first reading the Prophet explains the benefits of placing one's trust in God rather than himself. Jeremiah contrasts the blighted state of those who trust in human devices with the blessed state of those who trust in the Lord.

In the second reading Paul speaks of the guarantee of a blessed future in the life to come through the merits of Christ's passion death and resurrection. The Gospel promises every man that his living of the beatitudes will bring him authentic fulfillment as opposed to the illusory fulfillment of those who put their hope in the present life.

Luke wrote his gospel at a time of terrible social and religious persecution of believers in Christ. It was so severe that anyone professing to be a Christian knew for sure that he or she would be disowned by family, rejected by friends and excluded from the synagogue. One immediately lost one's right of inheritance, free association and commerce in the community. Even if one was a very rich person with lots of land and farms, the moment they declared their faith in Christ, they were automatically dispossessed and reduced to a state of stark poverty. Now you know why some smart ones among them would go and sell their lands first!