The readings for Sunday, February 2, 2014:
First Reading: Micah 6:1-8
Psalm: Psalm 15
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Here we are again, at one of the touchstones of our faith, the Sermon on the Mount (alternately called The Beatitudes). Those of us who have been going to church for many years have likely heard it so often that we zone out at the reading of it. We might say to ourselves, "Yeah, yeah, blessed, blessed, got it."
Now is a good time to revisit this text. Now is a good time to use that old technique from the ancient practice of lectio divina: sit with this text for some time and take note of what jumps out at you. That might be God talking to you through the text.
You could also use a similar technique from literary analysis. In my literature classes, I often ask, "Which character speaks to you?" Here I would ask, which verse speaks to you?
Are you that person who mourns? Are you hungering for righteousness? Are you making peace?
Maybe you have a darker glimmer: maybe you're not the person who is working for peace (perhaps in the politics of your office or your family). Maybe you're the one standing in the way of peace. Maybe the text is calling you to revolution, that turning around, in the way that St. Paul turned around. In church calendar time, we've just celebrated the conversion of Paul on Jan. 25. It's a valuable time to remember that God has a use for us, no matter how ferociously we've been undermining the vision that God has for humanity and creation.
The actual date of today, February 2, is Candlemas, the day we celebrate the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Simeon holds the light of the world, Jesus, in his hands. We, too, bear the light of the world within us. Like Jesus, we are called to be the light of the world. Some churches, monasteries, and abbeys will bless the year's supply of candles today.
It's a good day to light a candle and to think about this issue of light and how we can be that light, especially if we feel our wicks are cut short or are damp or are unworthy in so many ways. Return to the Gospel; it tells us how to live.
The text reminds us of how to treat ourselves and others: with mercy, with compassion, with comfort. The text reminds us that just because we follow Jesus, our path will not be easy. On the contrary, we will likely face persecution. But Jesus doesn't let us off the hook. This text tells us how we are to act and what we are to value.
Again and again, Jesus reminds us that God's way is not the world's way. Read this text one night as you watch T.V. and marvel at the difference in values. The world worships wealth and power. The world worships beauty and power. The world worships those who boss the rest of us around. The world worships those who ship our jobs away, those who buy low and sell high, those who ignore the rules and succeed.
Our Gospel this week reminds us of God's rules, the way that we succeed in God's eyes. Our Gospel this week gives us God's promise that we will be comforted, that even though we may be meek in the eyes of the world, we will be filled with good things.