Daily Reflection
January 30th, 2005
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.


We are praying with the dignity of being a “remnant” people as we prepare for this weekend’s liturgy. This Sunday and next we will be praying with the “New Teachings” of Jesus. Ten days before Lent begins we are offered insights into just what the “kingdom” of God asks of us in terms of our being converted from our own kingdoms.

We can pray to listen, to take in as much as we can and to pray with those areas we would rather not have as elements of our lives.

We can pray also to shake off the familiarity of the Beatitudes and try to hear a new call for us to enjoy being of these “attitudes”. We would like to be humble, until of course we or others humble ourselves. We could pray for the comfort of being one who mourns until we lose a close friend or family member. Conversion is always our next step so we pray for self-patience.

We can find ourselves at times, worrying about the possibility that God is angry with us or our world. In the Hebrew Scriptures God was, at times, pictured as full of wrath and punishing plans for the people of Israel. We know anger within ourselves and in others and so we can assume that God has flashes of vengeance and fury.

In our First Reading today, the prophet Zephaniah has been warning the peoples of a wrath to come from God. He then speaks what we hear, that those who “seek the Lord” and “seek justice,” those who are humble and just perhaps then they will avoid being dealt with like rebellious children.

We skip from there to the next chapter where the prophet speaks God’s word of compassion. God will reserve, preserve or guard a “remnant” who will live in the presence of all the others in a humble and lowly manner. They will do what is right, tell and live no lies. They will be shepherded by God and shepherd their flocks in peace with no one to bother them or be angry with them. They will live as a reflection of God’s goodness and bring about that goodness in the lives around them.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel is speaking to His disciples whom He wishes to form into a remnant. Matthew pictures Jesus up on a mountain side presenting a variation of the Ten Commandments. He is a Moses-like figure presenting the proper way to live this human life.

These seven “commandments” are not laws, but invitations to the new followers of Jesus. They are for those interested in how Jesus views just how the “holy remnant” will live. These are not exactly revolutionary ideas or ideals. They involve the elements of what individuals think of themselves and what they think of others. Humans have an in-born desire to know what other people think of them. There is this innate insecurity about who we are and how we are. This is appropriate for us it seems. Jesus is asking His disciples and us to depend also on what God thinks of us in Christ.

We have this phrase, “face-saving.”  We want our faces to be saved from shame, turning “red,” appearing confused. We can spend lots of time looking at or for ourselves in the mirror. Jesus is telling His disciples that they will look quite stunning, simply marvelous and in fact, “beatific” when they live what He commands. The “remnant” is less concerned with saving their faces than in preserving the face of God within the human body.

Our question then concerns how we will look when we are “poor in spirit” or “meek,” or “clean of heart.”  Like the early disciples, we will spend time watching how Jesus walked this earth revealing a vision of the holiness of God. The early disciples found this vision hard to see reflected in their own faces. They too wondered at more than His miracles, but more at the conversion His teachings were encouraging.


“POOR in SPIRIT” - Those who are materially wealthy are known, at time, to be “high brow.” Those who are “poor in spirit” are not low “brow,” but simple in the reception of all God’s gifts. They know from where all things come and what they are for. Their “brows” do not wrinkle in disappointment, but often in amazement.

“THEY WHO MOURN” - The eyes do weep the “holy water” of faith in place of the heart which keeps beating when we lose someone close to us. The eyes which have been filled with the visions of loved persons fill with tears when those visions are taken away. The holy ones weep because there has been love enough to fill the longing-heart and the heart remains to long for the beyond to which the beloved has returned. The eyes of faith do cry real tears of loss and love.

“THE MEEK” - The “proud” are often pictured as having their “noses” turned up or stuck up. The “meek” of the Gospel are strong and level-headed. They have a nose for the truth and can smell fakery and are not afraid of pointing it out. They do not “turn down their noses” when encountering the poor, marginal, or distasteful. Their strength of simplicity is as plain as the noses on their faces.

“HUNGER and THIRST for RIGHTEOUSNESS” - The mouth is where we satisfy hunger and thirst for the body. The mouth expresses the hunger and thirst for justice and the holy relationships which Jesus came to establish between all humankind. What Jesus thirsted for on the cross was the reconciliation between God and us. Jesus hungered after His temptations, but He hungered for His holy way of living to be shared with His sisters and brothers. His “righteousness” is not legal, that is being right by our own actions, but being right with the person God as creator gave this world by our being of God’s love. The mouth takes in and breathes out the holiness of Jesus’ ways.

“THE MERCIFUL” -  “Out of the heart, the tongue speaks.” We are invited to have hearts of forgiveness and to speak compassionately when we are offended. Mercy is more than a feeling.  It is a sense that as Jesus spoke the words of forgiveness from the cross over us; our words resemble His from the crosses of our own harshness. Our words tongue the very interiority of the Heart of Jesus.

“THE PEACEMAKERS” - Jesus spoke of “turning the other cheek” when slapped. We talk of “taking one on the chin.”  The face of holiness looks on violence, disputes, and wars, but not passively. Making peace involves getting involved. Violence can beget further violence, but the face of holiness can confront wars and will get slapped as Jesus did and will take a few on the chin as did the early martyrs. Making peace faces others with the insanity of war, separation of brothers and sisters, as well as the sacrilege of annihilation and genocide.

“THE PERSECUTED” -  What are people saying about us? Our ears hear the insults, the slander, and the lies. Our ears hear also what God says about us in Jesus. We can get “an earful” from those who oppose the holy re-creation of this world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and us, His followers. Sticks and stones may break our bones and names may hurt us. The prayer of the Beatitudes begins with listening and ends with showing the face of Jesus in our showing up each moment.   

“For Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his. To the father
through the features of men’s faces.”
-G. M. Hopkins, S.J.

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