Monday, June 17, 2013

Visiting old familiar places

There are so many places in life that seem to be beckoning at us.  Those of us who have been blessed with the chance to have travelled much in life still never run short of places that tug at our heartstrings, where their lure and attraction spark the wanderlust in us.  Many find the sense of discovery and adventure of a new place always exciting, with the anticipation of a something new always awaiting us around a new corner of an unexplored world, hitherto unknown.  Yet, we do also know that life is not only all about the new and shiny, the unknown and unmet.  There is a large part of life that consists in also necessarily dealing with and living with the old, the familiar and the basic.  Man does not live on exotic bread alone, but also on the foundational, familiar and routine Word of God as well, if one could read into Scripture and bring what is essential into clearer perspective.

Perhaps the same could be said about reading and living with the Sacred Text.  We all have our routine favourites, and there are a host of people who love to ‘discover’ a new quote from scripture which perhaps is unfamiliar.  It perhaps reminds them that indeed, the Word of God is something really alive and active.  It’s a good way to being kept on one’s toes as far living the Word is concerned.  But is there a foundational text, a basic teaching that seems to be able to surpass others when it comes to our crisis points in life?  Is if fair to say that one particular text speaks more eloquently and even exquisitely in our times of dark need in ways that others may only hint at when it comes to telling us of God’s closeness to us in times of need?  I have a personal favourite and I have no means of saying without shadow of doubt that this should be it for you, my reader, but if you will bear with me, I will try to share with you why the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount (or the Plain) will always be a text that I return to over and over again in life, simply because the eternal truths of life and life’s challenges are found in and hidden in these gems which Jesus uses to usher in and establish the Father’s Kingdom and reign.  While Matthew give us eight blessings, Luke’s version has four blessings and four woes that are antithetical. 

An aerial view of the Church of the Beatitudes, where it stands on a mount overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
In the Beatitudes, we are affirmed by none other than God himself that we are living on the right track in life when our choices in life lead us to a certain suffering and place of discomfort.  All of us will find ourselves in this kind of position or predicament in life if we are serious in our Christian living.  Our moral choices set apart those of the world, when we are morally courageous, will put us in a position of disadvantage and we find ourselves in some corner alone.  Yet, we know that we are not alone because our choice was for God, and he is always with us.  We know as well that at the heart of it all, our spirits are poor and bereft of anything if not for God’s spirit dwelling in us.  When I know that in itself, my spirit is really nothing, and when my eyes are open to the fact that everything about my life is a result of God’s gift and grace, I not only know how poor I am, but also how incredibly and exceedingly rich (and blessed) I am, I begin to redefine true happiness, and this riches which I am given makes Midas look a poor cousin.

The reason we need to revisit this very familiar passage very often is because we want to truly live kingdom values and in the secure and providing arms of God.  This has to one of the most basic principles of the Christian life.  Moreover, the Beatitudes remind us to reclaim what true blessings are.

I have never quite steered away from a basic spiritual truth in my weekly spiritual musings, which is our need to live in a constant spirit of gratitude and receptivity of God’s mercy.  To be able to live this way is one of the greatest blessings in life because we will be aware that we rely on God in just about everything in life.  What is a blessing but a recognition of one’s goodness and value, where on is validated for one’s very being.  This explains why people love to be blessed and to experience a blessing.  I can understand why parents of children who have not reached the age of receiving Holy Communion like it when their priests are ‘illiturgical’ and ask that they go up to receiving a blessing instead.  This ‘abused’ act is something that is so rampant it has almost become a liturgical monster in itself.  But this is not a post to deal with how much I am against this at the Mass.

Being blessed at the right place and time affirms one that one is loved, that one is recognized as good, and it re-establishes one’s good value.  Being blessed gives one the strength and courage to continue to pursue the kingdom values that Jesus came to establish in spite of how difficult they will be in the face of earthly and temporal values like the measures of success, wealth, position and power.  So, when we read with our hearts that we are ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ despite our apparent disadvantaged positions in life, we know that deep inside, there is a real truth that we are living.  The world with its dangers and lures still becomes a safe place.  It is not often going to be a happiness that is commensurate with a bounce in one’s steps and a lilt in one’s voice, though it may occur from time to time.  This happiness that Jesus speaks of is based on a certain acceptance of a vulnerability in the biblical sense.  This cannot be understood with the mind in its logical categories, but rather, with the heart of faith. 

When we take pains to revisit this familiar place in the Sacred Text, we re-ground ourselves in a fundamental truth that God supports us in all our difficulties and trials.  We reclaim our blessedness in our Christian living especially when we mistakenly think that as followers of Christ, we picked the short straws and others have it good.  In reality, have we really picked the short straw?

Blessed are those who have. 


  1. i used to wonder am i a sour grape when i said to myself, blessed are the poor - because i am poor in almost everything. But when the riches of life flashed through my mind and the countless things i would and could have done, i thank God for my poverty. In my poverty, He taught me to be strong; in my poverty, He gave me freedom; in my poverty, He showered me with His love and protection. And i thank You, Lord.

    Thank you too, frLuke, for this beautiful reflection. And yes, "the Word of God is something really alive and active"


  2. Thanks Fr for this beautiful sharing ,amen

  3. May God Bless you to regain your health and grant your wish to complete your course .Thank you Fr Luke for the Light and see you!

  4. Thank you for your all beautiful sharings Fr Luke. And here's wishing you a very Happy 12th Anniversary of your Ordination.......and many many more to come. God Bless You Always!!

  5. All human beings, regardless of race, creed or colour have this innate desire or drive for happiness and so the search for happiness becomes their ‘holy grail’ even though it may take the form of strivings for power and wealth, fame and beauty...........the attaining of each, never really satisfies or sates (at least in the long run) for one knows not what one’s heart really wants. In a way the gift of faith for us Catholics is really a boon for as Pope Francis said, ‘......a Christian’s “all” is Jesus Christ, ‘’God’s Kingdom is “all”, the other is secondary..........’

    This finds an echo in what you said in your post, ‘’.........our need to live in a constant spirit of gratitude and receptivity of God’s mercy. To be able to live this way is one of the greatest blessings in life because we will be aware that we rely on God in just about everything in life...........’’. Our task then is how to live this Kingdom here and now before the hereafter. As usual, we are never left lacking by Mother Church.

    On Wednesday, our church began a new RCIA journey of faith and as the catechist led all present on a thumbnail tour of the RCIA journey, I couldn’t help but be aware ( thanks to your post) that the Beatitudes featured as one of the prominent sessions under Christian Living. Reflecting on this ......I realized that though we are made in the image and likeness of God – our image remains but our ‘likeness’ can get tarnished even blurred and missing in the mad scramble to make a living and to live a life in this day and age! For we are often torn between the norms and values of the world and Kingdom values. The Beatitudes are thus invaluable as a guide and checklist on how we are living the ‘all’ - not only for catechumens and newly baptized but even more so for some of us long-time Catholics, complacent that we have already known them all!

    God bless you, Fr

  6. Dear Fr. Luke,
    Peace & Love!
    Thank you for this brilliant sharing. Read & heard the Beatitudes proclaimed many a times but I must admit I have never really pondered on it so deeply until now. It is truly the manifesto of His Kingdom. Each saying is proverb-like, precise and so full of meaningful.
    A week on and I am still pondering and learning much. This weekend has been one of my most fruitful yet restful ones! Praise God from whom all Blessings flow.
    Thinking & keeping you in our prayers.
    God Bless you Dear Fr. Luke
    Patricia & Ray