23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year II)
The life of Jesus is the epitome of his “Sermon on the Mount” or “Sermon on the Plain,” as it is called in Luke. The living sermon who is Jesus himself continues in his disciples, the Body of Christ.
Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
Born in a manger to poor Mary and Joseph, the Son of God entered the world naked and empty-handed like all newborn babes. The family’s poverty was evident in the ritual purification of Mary and Joseph forty days after his birth: they offered “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” in lieu of a costly lamb (Luke 2:24). Joseph the carpenter apprenticed Jesus in the humble trade of skilled manual labor.
During Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus was poorer than a fox: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58).
Matthew’s version reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3), for material poverty is no guarantee of inner abandonment to divine providence. Abraham is the classic case of a rich man who passes through the “eye of a needle” because he is poor in spirit. The fundamental truth is that we are radically poor and empty at bottom: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return” (Job 1:21). Our very existence is a gift.
Yet existence alone does not constitute the kingdom of God. Existence alone may even lead to despair. A deeper poverty must be found—the primordial poverty of persons in communion. Each “I” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is simultaneously empty and full in the mutual indwelling of one within the other: “All mine are thine, and thine are mine” (John 17:10).
Persons in the Body of Christ also dwell within one another in undivided division: “All mine (the theandric Body) are thine, and thine are mine.” Since nothing lies outside the deified humanity—the perichoresis of the two natures in Christ—poverty and wealth are one and the same thing. The deified person has nothing to gain and nothing to lose.
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
After fasting for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, Jesus was hungry. Yet when tempted to turn stones into bread he responded, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). The hunger of the spirit for truth and divine communion infinitely surpasses the hunger of the body.
Yet Jesus did not ignore the needs of the body. He and his disciples were hungry enough to pick grain on the Sabbath. Compassion moved Jesus to feed thousands in the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Hunger for love and mercy drove him to alleviate the hunger of his neighbors.
The crying hunger of humanity for deification drew Jesus to give himself as food and drink: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:56). In the Eucharistic banquet, persons become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.
Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus when he died (John 11:35). He wept for Martha and Mary, the dead man’s sisters, and for the plight of humanity represented by the tomb. Death and division, sin and strife tear humanity apart within and without. Jesus’ self-emptying love to the Father in the Holy Spirit opened the way for weeping humanity to enter the laughter of eternal communion.
“In the heart of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us” (Meister Eckhart).
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
By his Incarnation Jesus became an object of love and hatred—an individual among individuals. It was better for him to go to the Father, he told Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, so that the Holy Spirit would guide her from within (John 20:17; 16:7). The deification of humankind is a gradual process of awakening to the reality of mutual indwelling and communion.
Hatred and insult come from the state of division—the illusion of interpersonal separation and objectification (individualism). Communion transcends the duality of subject and object. The indivisibility of persons in communion is an invisible reality that only the spiritual eye can perceive.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
If invisible riches were as palpable as cash in the hand, there would be no need for “woes” and warnings. For the mystics of the Church, deification did become as palpable, even in this life. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, the inner eye must be awakened to see that earthly riches and satiety are nothing in comparison with the treasure of becoming one with the infinite and incorruptible Trinity: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34).