The Holy Land is a breathtakingly beautiful land. But its a tortured land too…tortured by decades of political conflict and war…One of the most beautiful parts of the Holy Land is the region up in the north where the sea of Galilee is surrounded by mountains and fertile green hills. On one of those hills is the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus preached today’s Gospel for the first time. Its a stunning sight to see the sun rising over the hills and shining across the sea of Galilee onto the Mount of Beatitudes. It is so beautiful its almost a glimpse of heaven…So its perhaps no co-incidence then, that Jesus chooses this setting to preach the Beatitudes…because the Beatitudes are a kind of eye-opener for us that help us to see the beauty of God in our midst…The Beatitudes are a pathway for us on the journey of life…A pathway that doesn’t try to steer us away from suffering but helps us to confront suffering with hope and even begin to see the beauty of God in life’s problems.
It might seem strange to hear Jesus say things like: “Happy are you when you mourn” or “Happy are you when you are persecuted” Its hard to imagine mourning or persecution making any of us happy.But the proper, more appropriate translation is “Blessed are you.”Blessed are you when you mourn, blessed are you when you are persecuted…because in your suffering, you are already experiencing the blessedness of God who carries that suffering with you and who leads you once again to fresh and beautiful pastures.
We live in a world where instant happiness is everything.We don’t like the inconvenience of suffering…We can’t cope with anything that’s uncertain.We’re no longer used to waiting for what we want. And yet, all of the things in life that we can have “instantly”never quite manage to fulfil and quench our longing. That’s where the Beatitudes come in. Because they’re signposts pointing to God.Steering us on a journey to fulfillment in God. But a journey, nonetheless, that won’t let us shy away from hardship and pain.
The old cliche “No pain, no gain”might sound jaded and odd, but when we think about it its what the Christian life is really all about.Its what the Beatitudes are all about.Its about the pain of letting go of everything and surrendering all we have and are to God and to other people.That doesn’t really come naturally to any of us. So it can be very painful. But the more we hand over our life to God, the more freedom and peace we gain inside.The Beatitudes are for all who find life hard today, for whatever reason. But their echoes of comfort and reassurance bring a huge challenge to us as well.That’s the challenge to find God in the heart of our suffering. To experience the love of his presence and to trust that God makes everything even the greatest of suffering, beautiful…in his time.