1 Kings 17:1-6
It was around the year 85 of the first century, that the Evangelist, St. Matthew, perused a manuscript copy of the Gospel of St. Mark and asked himself, "What could I add to this clear proof that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God? What would be of benefit to my part of the New Israel and made up of converts from Judaism and Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, Romans? How can I bring harmony and appreciation of what Jesus saw as valid in the Law of Moses and its deepening in the Law of Love given by Jesus?"
Matthew’s answer involved him with weeks and months of research and writing. He saw Jesus as did Mark as Son of God. He saw Jesus as renewing the Law of Moses and the demands of the prophets.
"Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand." The aims and law of that Kingdom would be spelled out by Matthew in five discourses that gathered together the teaching of Jesus–a hand book for his flock and for the Church at large
The first great discourse we know as the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with startling paradoxes by asserting where true happiness is to be found.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Surely many who heard what Jesus proclaimed were shocked and thought: "Is this Jesus person serious? Aren’t we children of Abraham to whom God promised land, children and prosperity? " And the mighty of Wall Street who boasted of the value of greed would repeat their unbelief.
Who are these "poor in spirit"? In Israel they were the Anawim– a remnant chastened, humble, who take refuge in the name of the Lord. Such are the "poor in spirit" for Jesus as he joins the law of Moses to the renewal he is achieving by himself as the Living God!
The message telling of true happiness was not merely for those assembled on the Mount of Beatitudes, it is valid for us today.
You are "poor in spirit" if your drive in life is not the size of your bank account, or the car you drive or the gratifying pleasures you can afford. One who is poor in spirit is keenly aware that he or she was created to know God, love God, serve God in this life and look forward to an eternity in glory with the Lord. If such is your aim, then surely you are blessed and even now truly happy.
Each of the beatitudes speaks of the attitude of mind and heart those who put their trust in God. Desire to put down others is controlled by meekness. Simplicity gives us the mind of God.
Jesus gives the life-plan that makes for assured happiness in time and eternity. It may well demand a repentance, a change of mind and heart, but it gives peace of soul now and assurance of a joy that will never end.
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.