for Sunday, February 3, 2008
Just as the Ten Commandments are the core of the Jewish way of life and a law to follow, so Beatitudes are the core of the Christian way of life. Yet, they are often not understood as such. In many ways, they are largely ignored as guides to Christian living and many Christians still regard the Ten Commandments as their life guide.
However, there are major differences between the Commandments and the Beatitudes. In a literal sense at least, the Commandments are fairly easy to keep. And, what is very significant as far as the Gospel is concerned; they can be observed without love. They can be kept in a very selfish, selfcentred way. This was perhaps the problem of the rich man who said he kept the Commandments since he was young but could not bring himself to share his wealth with the poor. This was surely a failure in love for the neighbour. And so he could not become a disciple of Jesus.
In the society where Jesus grew up, a good person was understood as one who kept the Law perfectly. In fact, many of them can be kept by not doing anything at all e.g. not stealing, not being violent, not doing any sexual acts, not talking about other people...
Strictly speaking, the Beatitudes are not commandments. They are not so much things to be done or rules to be kept as deep-down attitudes of mind. And, in fact, their observance is only possible with a deep love of God and of other people. They can never be kept fully -- they are goals that are always calling us further. They never leave any room for complacency. One can never say about the Beatitudes what the rich man said to Jesus, namely, that he had kept all the commandments since he was young.
The Beatitudes must be understood in the context of the Kingdom. The Kingdom, as we said on a previous Sunday, is not a place. It is that complex of relationships that exists between God and those who have totally accepted him as the Lord and guide of their lives and who share God's vision of what life is about. So, in the Kingdom it is not the rich, the successful and the powerful who are really happy and fortunate but the meek and lowly.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: