4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 29, 2017)

The motive of reward for hard work and honest effort is part of American DNA. Some transfer the idea of reward and expand it to believe that rewards are the only reason for hard work and honest effort. The reward motive becomes the norm and becomes the law of the land. Unfortunately, children of many families learn this well and early on.

Unfortunately also, reward appears likely to be the greatest motive to attract many folks to religion. The appeal of “pie in the sky when you die” and avoiding hell has drawn many – especially older members. Following Jesus for what we can get out of it is not the motive that Jesus wants.

Reminiscent of john f. Kennedy’s famous, inauguration statement, we say ask not what Jesus can do for you; ask rather that his personhood and message of the centrality of love draw you to union with him. The beatitudes form a preamble to Jesus’ “law of love.” Matthew later presents Jesus revealing the two great commandments of love to his followers. Here, he invites us to become part of his mission of love for the world. Reward comes as a by-product for our commitment to love God above anyone or anything else. Personal, self-aggrandizement is an unworthy response to his call.

The beatitudes have been misunderstood as referring to various categories of people. Today, the blest are seen as a composite of the attitude that the followers of Jesus need. Jesus was painting a portrait of one who is be-oming a Christian.

Jesus is not declaring that some are blessed because they live in a state of some deprivation; they are blest in spite of their deprivation. Jesus uses beatitudes to instill hope in lives where there is not much hope. He wants a change of mind/heart that inspires them to work to help bring about the kingdom of God. More to come, not more of the same! He wants our hope and faith to inspire us to help bring about the kingdom of God by reversing life-situations like war, hunger, thirst, et cetera – and with joy.

The beatitudes challenge us to understand that things can be different and that we can make a difference. We are declared blest because we have hope rooted in faith and communion with our God. Beatitudes provide a profile for living Jesus, living in communion with him and our neighbor.

Jesus invites us into his divine way of looking at our world with a blessed-ness that is surely a strange wonder to the world, yet lures. It is the combination of wonder and allurement that draws so many to Jesus and to Mary who offers a great example in her eloquent Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord…"

The blessed represent those who weigh things and act for God. Living in this way means keeping an eye out for God’s will in the situations of life. Jesus gives meaning to our lives. Beatitudes challenge us to reflect on our response to adversities and remind us to develop a knee-jerk response of faith when opportunity presents itself.