Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time January 29, 2017
Zephaniah 2, 3; 3, 12-13 + Psalm 146 + 1 Corinthians 1, 26-31 + Matthew 5, 1-12
Last Sunday, leading up to this reading today, we heard Jesus insist that his followers “repent.” In my preaching on that text, I was reminded that the word “repent” has been watered down in translation losing the power and the force of “metanoia” which the word Matthew uses in his original text. For most people, “repent” means to feel sorry and maybe try to do better. I do not think Jesus came from the glory of the Father to make us feel sorry. That idea trivializes his life and his death. He came for “metanoia” which means a lot more than feeling sorry and wanting to do better. That Greek word means changing one’s mind, but not like trading one idea for another. It means a complete transformative change of one’s thinking. It also implies a repudiation of the past ways. With that in mind, Matthew leads us to the mountain and unfolds the message of Jesus.
For those who have begun to experience metanoia at the call of Jesus, this transformation becomes crystal clear. For those trapped in an old way of thinking, trapped in the ways of this world, being Blessed sort of means being lucky, or having received a gift. If that is the case, what follows brings conflict and makes no sense. How is someone lucky who is poor or meek, hungry or in mourning? How can these be blessings they must wonder, and having no answer, they just turn the page and go on unaffected and unchanged. They think it is blessed to be rich because they get what they want. They think that the powerful and aggressive are blessed because they see gentleness as weakness. If you are merciful people will take advantage of you. They want none of that. No metanoia here!
The message of the Gospel and the life and teaching of Jesus Christ turns everything in this world upside down, and it repudiates everything this world believes, values, and holds onto. So, here comes metanoia. Blessing no longer means being lucky or fortunate or favored. According to Jesus Christ being Blessed means being like God. It means being the way God made and intended us and all things to be. That is “Blessed”. Whatever is ungodly is not blessed. For those who will go through the metanoia of faith, everything is different, and the past is over.
Those who are Blessed know their need for God and put their trust in God rather than in material things believing that God will give all that is needed. The Blessed know that what makes you rich is not what you possess, but what kind of person you are.
Those who are Blessed are gentle and kind. They know that weakness is a form of strength knowing that the most important things in life have to be bought with pain and sacrifice. They never confuse happiness with cheap thrills.
Those who are Blessed have values and standards and are prepared to live up to them by doing what is right because that’s what life is about.
Those who are Blessed know mercy and give what they hope to receive. Their greatness lies in their readiness to forgive since they never forget to say, “I’m sorry.”
You can go on with the rest of these beatitudes if you have begun to desire and risk metanoia. These beatitudes are the badges of a disciple of Jesus. They make us rich in the sight of God. They open our minds to a new way of seeing and judging. They give us a whole new set of bearings. A person who lives according to the beatitudes is already living in the Reign of God, and the fact that they are made in God’s image is unmistakable. To see them is to see something of God on this earth. Eternal life will merely be the full blossoming of a life that is already full.