The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 29, 2017
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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The Beatitudes were Jesus’ first official speech. The Sermon on the Mount was a programmatic speech, in which Jesus synthetically expressed his main message, the essential core of his mission. It was more than a state of the union address: it was Jesus’ inauguration speech.

What Christ presented on that occasion was the constitution of what it means to be a Christian. As a constitution defines what a country should be, the Beatitudes describe what a Christian should be.

When someone is starting a mission and has to give a speech about it, he has to state the most important ideas he plans to accomplish. Even in my case, I remember that the homily I delivered during my first Mass, fifteen years ago, contained the essential ideas that I am trying to live every day.

The Sermon on the Mount came about in a very curious manner. Jesus delivered it after meeting with a crowd of hundreds of people. A crowd is always inspiring. We can find out many things by looking at a crowd. This was my experience last Monday, at the March for Life. Seeing all those joyful people marching, I learned so many things. There are ideas, suggestions and intuitions coming from a multitude.

After the experience of the crowds, Jesus went up to the mountain, the most beautiful place in the Holy Land, with a tranquil view of the Sea of Galilee and surrounding region. He needed to meet with the Father. In the intimacy of prayer, he needed to understand the meaning of what he was living. He needed time to clarify his mission, the mission given to him by the Father.

The Sermon on the Mount was born from Jesus’ meeting with the crowds and the prayer on the mountain. The Gospel says: “Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain and after he sat down, his disciples came to him” (Mt 5:1).

He fixed his eyes on his disciples and started delivering a magnificent speech. He spoke to the Apostles but also directed what he was saying to the crowds. In these crowds, we can see all the generations of humankind and all of us. The Apostles received their mission: to proclaim to all what they had heard from the Master.

In this speech, Jesus made promises. He promised to give seven things: the Kingdom of Heaven, comforts, inheritance of the land, satisfaction, mercy, vision of God, the title of the children of God and great reward in heaven.

However, to achieve all these things, there are eight prerequisites: to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, to be clean of heart, to be a peacemaker, to be persecuted and to be insulted.

Only those who fulfill all these prerequisites can receive Jesus’ promises. It seems impossible. If Jesus is making promises that are impossible to obtain, why would he do so?

Jesus is neither a demagogue nor a dreamer. He was not proclaiming a utopia. On the contrary, at the same time that he was proclaiming the Beatitudes, he was the embodiment of their realization. What Jesus promises is already realized in him. He is the “blessed.” He is inviting all of us to be blessed with him and in him.

What we need to live the Beatitudes is to let Jesus live in us, to let him lead us.

Last Wednesday evening, I had to drive ten miles from my order’s house to the rectory. It should have been easy but due to the snowstorm, I spent more than an hour waiting to cross Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda, trying to turn onto East-West Highway. Then I realized that I had a GPS and could find an alternative route. The GPS led me by other roads, leaving all the blocked cars behind me. When I arrived at Connecticut Avenue, everything was blocked. Again, I looked for an alternative route and the GPS led me to the rectory. When I arrived, I thought that if I had not followed the GPS, I would have still been on Wisconsin Avenue. Thanks to the GPS, I was home!

To be blessed, to live the Beatitudes that Jesus proclaims, is a matter of letting Jesus lead our lives. We do not have to do many things. To be blessed, we only have to do one thing: to allow Jesus to live in us.

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to obtain for us the same docility of heart that she had, so that we, too, can live the Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus.  Amen.

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