The beatitudes introduce Luke's Sermon on the Plain and Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. Scripture scholars regard this discourse by Jesus as one of four collections of sayings that definitely came from Jesus himself. The other three selections are the Lord's Prayer, the Kingdom
of God sayings and the Eucharistic words of consecration. The Sermon on the Plain and Sermon on the Mount sum up Jesus' vision and values that he desires his disciples to live by. This Sermon on the Plain and Sermon on the Mount give a goal and the pathway to walk to attain that goal. Our life goal is
to hear Jesus say to us, "you shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven."
Some substantive differences in the context and content occur in the beatitudes according to St. Luke and those presented by St. Matthew.
Matthew was one of the chosen twelve apostles. He wrote for Jews who had converted to Christianity. He focused on peoples' religious and spiritual relationships. Because Jews don't dare use the name of God, Matthew writes not about not the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom of
Heaven. Matthew's eight beatitudes preface the three-chapter Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus addresses to a large crowd of people.
Luke was not an apostle but a disciple. He wrote for Gentile Christians who did not have a history of waiting for the Messiah. Luke was a physician and focused on people's physical and material needs including their economic and social situations. In the scriptures, Luke's four
beatitudes of "blessings and woes" introduce his one chapter called the Sermon on the Plain which Jesus addresses to a small group of disciples.
Today, let's reflect on Luke's four beatitudes. "Blessed are you who are poor." Material poverty in itself is not a virtue; philosophically, material poverty is an evil; it is an absence of some good. And having great wealth in itself is not an evil. We all have met or read
about people who are very well off and very generous, and about people who have next to nothing and yet share the little they have. By the same token, we all have met or read about rich people and poor people who have refused to share whatever resources they had. The message is for us to focus on
becoming rich and blessed in the things of God.
"Blessed are you who are hungry." When we suffer from want, we appreciate oftentimes even the little we have. We experience that every good thing we have is gift. In a movie about St. Vincent de Paul, a scene occurs in which an entire village is suffering from famine. One child
becomes orphaned, and she had no one to take care of her. The child runs up to St. Vincent. She is lonely and hungry. St. Vincent turns to the townspeople who are gathered around him. He asks, "Can not one family receive and care for this child?" A woman who already had a large number of children
steps forward, and offers to take care of the orphan. St. Vincent asks rhetorically, "Why do the poor always have room for one more child?"
"Blessed are you who are weeping." Who of us does not weep at times: over the sins of the times, over the sins of other people, and over our own sins? Who does not weep over the deaths of our young men and women who die for their country in wars? Who does not weep over so many
wars that nations fight against other countries, and within their country? My heart breaks over the indifference of the majority of our local, national and international Christian population who do not come to church to hear God's word and to receive God's sacraments. Why do people close their mind,
heart and soul to communally and publicly praising God for one hour a week as God demands? Our sins cause us to weep, sooner or later.
"Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, insult you and denounce you on account of the Son of Man." We believers live with our eyes set on the world that will never end, i.e., the Kingdom of God in Heaven. Religion gives meaning to life now and forever. Religion
helps to develop joy now and forever. Someone observed to me recently, "Tiger Woods had it all, and it still wasn't enough." Philosophically speaking, nothing of earth can satisfy us completely. Why? Because we were created by God, through God and for God. We should constantly be working to improve
our relationship with God. Our purpose is to be at harmony with God now and forever. St. Augustine in the 5th century says it wonderfully: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord. Our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
Read other homilies by Father O'Malley