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A motivational speech from the Lord of the Underdogs

The Beatitudes Sermon

James Tissot | Brooklyn Museum | PD

Tom Hoopes - published on 02/14/19

And he is not talking about other people. He is talking about you.
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Jesus gives a motivational speech this Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

The Beatitudes are “the heart of Jesus’ preaching,” says the Catechism. They “fulfill the promises” God made to his people.

God promised, “I will rescue the lame, I will gather the exiles … I will bring you home.”

In the Beatitudes, Jesus makes that promise personal.

He doesn’t say “Blessed are the poor.” He says “Blessed are you poor.” He is not talking about other people. He is talking about you.

By “the poor” he most of all means those without money. Blessed are you if you have to live where you shouldn’t have to live, eat what you shouldn’t have to eat, and give your children less than they should get.

But also, blessed are you if you are poor in other things — poor in talents, poor in health, poor in peace of mind, even poor in spiritual strength.

Blessed are you if your life on earth is hard, because then maybe you will finally learn to look elsewhere for fulfillment. Once you do that, he says, “the Kingdom of God is yours.”

Next, Jesus says “Blessed are you hungry,” and he means exactly what sports and business motivators mean when they tell you to “be hungry.”

Only those hungry for glory will do what it takes to be champions; only those hungry for success will become billionaires. No one gets to the next level if they are satisfied with where they are now.

Jesus is saying the same thing to you: You will never do what it takes to be satisfied in the next world if you continue to satiate yourself with this one.

The physically hungry are entirely focused on finding the food their family needs — and the spiritually hungry are entirely focused on finding what their community needs.

Blessed are the dissatisfied, for they will find the one thing that satisfies.

Things are very different for the rich and the full and the popular.

In this version of the Beatitudes, Jesus doesn’t just speak to those who trust him. He speaks to those who don’t. “Woe to you who are rich,” he says, and “Woe to you who are filled now,” and “woe to you when all speak well of you.”

He sounds like Jeremiah in the first reading. “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,” he says, then gives a stark image of what it looks like to seek fulfillment here on earth:

“He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.”

Those who trust in popularity, human respect, or fame may look glamorous, beautiful, and happy to us. But to God they might look like a dead bush on a black rock that is white with salt, ready to be blown away by the next storm.

Real love looks totally different, because it is rooted in Christ.

The one who trusts in the Lord is the opposite of Jeremiah’s lava bush:

“He is like a tree planted beside the waters,
that stretches its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress
but still bears fruit.”

Staying rooted in Jesus Christ transforms everything. Jesus is God and God is love, and his love never fails. He corrects your weaknesses, heals your wounds and gives you the strength to build real relationships with those around you — always with him in the center.

St. Paul explains why.

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins, [the dead] have perished” and “we Christians are the most pitiable people of all.”

But Jesus has been raised from the dead. So our faith is not in vain. We are not in our sins. Death is not the end. In Christ, we finally have a lasting place to sink our roots, a love that doesn’t die, and a glory that doesn’t fade.

We become a tree that bends but won’t break in the storm.

So, be at peace. Even if you are hurting. Even if you are hated. Jesus is the Lord of the underdogs.

“Blessed are you who are now weeping,” says Jesus. Blessed are you who have been damaged by life and can’t seem to catch a break. Blessed are you who have lost loved ones to death or difficulties. Blessed are you who are victims of injustice or imprisoned by your own past mistakes.

You weep now but “you will laugh” at Christ’s side.

And if people “exclude and insult you and denounce your name as evil” but you are Christ’s, then still you are blessed.

If you are Christ’s, none of that matters. The Kingdom of heaven is yours.

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