Have you ever had something happen that you thought was the worst thing that could have ever happened… but you survived? You found comfort? You found peace?
Maybe it was something simple, like getting on the highway and getting caught behind an accident? Or losing the bid on your dream house? Or, not getting promoted at work? Not getting into the school you wanted? Or, perhaps losing the person you thought you could never live without?
But guess what? Things always seem to work out. You survived. You’re OK.
In fact, after a while, you even started smiling again. And now you’re here.
Another point: have you ever noticed how that just keeps happening? Like a cycle, we see that good things happen, and then bad things happen, and then good things… and through it all, you just keep going. Again and again. We either celebrate, or dust ourselves off, stand up tall, and keep going.
That’s resilience. That’s the human spirit. That’s what Jesus is talking about. And that may well be God’s greatest gift to us.
Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Some people say that God never gives us something we can’t handle. But today’s challenging Gospel from St. Matthew takes it a step further in pointing out that God delights in our resilience. We are blessed by hanging in, and hanging on. He knows what you’re going through. And in these Beatitudes, He lets us peek behind the curtain of our pain and suffering for just a moment, and reminds us the we are not alone.
Normally we could say our peace, our comfort flows from things like family, work, a passionate pursuit. But it can flow just as deep through sacrifice, through surviving. When we pause and consider all that we are going through, and that we are going to move forward anyway, we are looking at life through God’s eyes. He’s right beside you.
Maybe that’s the hardest part about this Gospel for us: we don’t understand how God can be so close to us in our suffering. We don’t understand how we can be “blessed” in our tough times.
But maybe that’s the point: St. Matthew is reminding us that there is a greater purpose to your life. Suffering is real, but so peace and hope. You are not defined by your loss, by your challenges, but rather by the fact that you got out of bed this morning, faced your addiction, your bank statement, your loss, your broken relationship, whatever is not going well in your life… and did not turn away.
You are not far from the Kingdom of God.
Let’s keep in mind that Jesus is talking to the common people of his day… people who have good days and bad, people under the oppressive rule of Rome, people who have experienced loss, confusion, disappointment. And yet, He’s saying how “blessed” they are.
The Greek word that begins each beatitude is makarios, meaning “happy” in an ordinary sense, but it also means ‘one who is especially favored or fortunate’. That’s why it is translated “blessed.”
That’s who you are in the eyes of God.
St Paul says just the same in our second reading today, as well as in the Letter to the Romans:
“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, we conquer these things overwhelmingly through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He who is broken in the Eucharist becomes for us the greatest force in the universe. Love. The source of our resilience, our perseverance, the reason we get out of bed in the morning.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
So, maybe the next time we are facing difficult times, we can tell ourselves… “God’s in this somewhere.” Even if we don’t see how God could make things any better, He can. That’s the promise.
If God could turn Good Friday into Easter Sunday, He can surely turn our hungers, our loneliness, our loss, our poverty into a blessing. The worst that could have happen to God, happened in the Crucifixion. And in the end, it turned out magnificent.
Just imagine what God’s love can do for our broken hearts this morning.
This homily was inspired by the writings and homilies of Fr. Joe Robinson.