January 29, 2017
Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
We are at the beginnings of Jesus public mission: we saw that Jesus left Nazareth and goes to live in Capernaum, and from there he begins to announce that the Kingdom of God is near, it’s present.
Last Sunday, we saw where and how the Kingdom of God bursts into the life of humans. Whereas, today, we see for whom the Kingdom comes, for whom it is intended, whose lives it touches first.
Jesus does not explain in words what the Kingdom of God is: he does not give a description of it, he does not illustrate its laws, he does not organize it in a precise theological arrangement; he simply gives some coordinates, some intuitions, he describes its effects. He opens some doors so that whoever wishes, whoever senses that this is truly the way of life, can enter it. He does not say what must be done to be worthy to be part of it. But he affirms that certain categories of persons, almost unconsciously, are already part of it, and can now marvel and rejoice in knowing that the Kingdom is just for those who are like them.
Who are those persons?
We would expect a list of all life’s successful, or a list of all the good people, of all the observant and law-abiding. On the contrary, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom belongs to the poor, the meek, the merciful, to all those whose lives have unfinished business. The Kingdom belongs to them first of all: the first in the Kingdom are the last.
The first thing we learn in listening to the beatitudes pertains to God: He loves all, sure, but he has preferences, and his favorites are those that the world would be inclined to discard, to leave for last: the poor, the non-violent, the pure of heart… If God’s way of loving is mercy, that is, the giving of his heart to the poor, then he cannot but begin with them.
But the preferences of God are not like ours: we tend to prefer someone and to exclude all others; God, on the contrary, prefers some to include all.
God, in fact, starts from the last, from the bottom, so that, going back, he can then gather all.
Those who love understand very well the logic of God: a mother or a father does not love all the children the same way, but will love more those who most need it. Only in this way will s/he really love all.
Then we can say that Jesus, inaugurating his Kingdom, starts here.
We know and are convinced that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of justice and peace. Jesus, nevertheless, is not primarily concerned with judging those who commit injustices, with punishing those who are responsible for the poverty of so many people, with hunting down the perpetrators of evil. He does not make new laws, does not eliminate injustice, he does not solve problems. Instead he concerns himself with looking to the poor and to all wounded persons, and calling them blessed, even now, on this earth.
But what is this blessedness, this joy that we do not recognize, and that only the Lord can reveal to us?
The blessed of the Kingdom are those who do not run away in the face of life, who do not find easy ways out.
The poor, the meek, the merciful, are those who facing the hardships and the tragedy of life do not try to save themselves at all costs, imposing themselves on others by force; but they remain in emptiness, in suspension, without wanting to fill it with their own strength. They pass through it without wanting to control it.
These persons experience that sooner or later right there, in the dark, a way opens for a new experience of God: it is there that we meet him. And so, if there one encounters the face of God, if one discovers to be among his “favorites”, then the reason changes completely by which one lives and the criterion by which one judges what is essential and true, and what it is not: what seemed a gain becomes a loss (cf. Philippians 3:7).
These persons, Jesus says, are truly blessed, they are the real fortunate ones.
Because to them, who have discovered the Easter logic inherent in every human drama, nothing could frighten any more: even the hardest experiences become mysteriously precious.
This is the true joy!
It would occur to us to think that joy is linked to what we possess, to what fills our emptiness.
The beatitudes tell us of another joy, deeper, related to what one does not have, and that one consequently receives from an Other. An Other who does not give something, but gives Himself.
It is a perspective of life which cannot be explained and cannot be understood theoretically. It is the experience of faith that causes one to judge things in a new way.
Only those who live it understand it. For others, this is foolishness…