Most games have instructions on just how to achieve success. I remember how my father taught me to cast a bait properly while seated in the boat. The lure would land right next to the boat if I held on to the line too long or would fly straight up and come down between us. It is not easy to learn perfection.
Golfers have to learn a long series of postures and movements for feet, knees, hips, torso, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, hands and “Keep your head down!” The question I would have is not how to do it, but why! How does one keep all the instructions in mind? How does the ball ever get struck and headed toward the hole?
Our Catholic way of living faith and keeping straight can seem both simple and complicated. Rules and instructions help, but at the center of it all is our personal relationship with Jesus. If we concentrate on the “how” rather than the “why” of our faith, we belong to a structure or business rather than a faith community. It is from that community that we are sent to go fishing and toward that worshipping-community that we putt along. As we move toward our celebrating this-week’s liturgy we might pray with the relationship which Jesus initiates and sustains. We can pray as well with the “why” of faith in our lives and the “why” of the Eucharist in helping us play the games of Hope and Love.
We hear from the Prophet Zephaniah for a few instructions and a promise. Pride, posturing, forgetting Who formed them, was a disintegrating sin for Israel. They were reminded often by God that God was their origin and their destiny. This is the setting for our First Reading.
The promise is that instead of a constant prophetic instruction, God would plant a people whose lives would reveal propriety and perfection. Instead of telling everybody not to tell lies or how to act toward each other, this remnant will live justly, because they will know who they are.
Jesus will see crowds coming toward Him often in His life. He will feed, heal and teach them, but in this passage he will speak to His disciples. Matthew, in today’s Gospel, pictures Jesus as a figure or reminder of Moses who presented the first laws or instructions for proper relating to the mysterious God. There are nine positive spiritual reminders which include positive results in this beginning of His Sermon on the Mount. We will continue hearing portions of this sermon until the beginning of Lent.
It has been said that God so loved the world that God didn’t send a lawyer. We are half way between Christmas and Ash Wednesday. The Word became Flesh to save us and “in flesh” Himself in our lives. This sermon begins the process of how we take flesh, how we give birth and life to Him. These are not law, but invitations for being alive and present in and to this world.
Pope Benedict XVI gives much thought to each of these invitations in his wonderful book about Jesus. Each of them sponsors all kinds of reflections on their meanings. Poverty of spirit, how is that an invitation and to what? It is a wonderful study we can make upon what Jesus meant. Some of them are comforting and some more challenging. Being “meek” seems misunderstood by many and maybe I am one of them.
Poverty of Spirit might be related to the spirit of meekness. There is the image of the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object. Our minds have an entitled force which is irresistibly forced toward grasping, possessing, consuming. The third word children learn to speak with equal intensity to the first two, is “Why?” They feel entitled to know the reasons they have to go to bed, take a shower, eat peas and stop teasing siblings. That force never goes away and is a wonderful gift to guard and reverence.
Where does being meek fit in to all this? The immoveable object is God as mystery. God is entitled to be God and the blessedness of being meek is that we are entitled to be human, that is having the power to know what to ask. We are not entitled to a richness of God’s ways. Our “whys” crash like huge waves into God’s “ways” or wall of loving silence. Little children learn that their parents don’t have to tell or cannot tell just yet, all that will satisfy the child. We keep learning to love the questions and experience life as the meek-time of waiting.
The last verse of the Gospel creates a good question/answer form. We are invited to accept insults, persecutions, and people’s speaking falsely about us. We are entitled to being spoken well of and having our truth respected. In each of these nine invitations, there is the question and then the Jesus-given answer. Here at the end we have an answer which involves meekly surrendering to the demanding “now please” of our irresistible minds. Our “nows” and “whys” are healthy and wise and our faith cushions the crash.
“Let your face shine on your servant, and save me by your love. Lord, keep me from shame, for I have called to you.” Ps. 31, 17-18
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