10 June 2024 Monday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time

1 K 17:1-6; Mt 5:1-12a


          At the time when the Gospels were written, that is, when the memories of those who had known Jesus and had been his disciples were collected by the four Evangelists we know - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - after these writings had circulated first orally and then in small detached written accounts, the first Christians were already suffering persecution. We can therefore understand the importance given in these Gospels to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake...", as well as the way it is elaborated: “Blessed are you if you are insulted, if you are persecuted... rejoice, be glad...”. At the time, the tensions were between the authorities of the traditional Jewish religion and the nascent Christianity, which was seen as a new sect and a threat.

          The situation was the same -- only more difficult and dramatic -- at the time when John, the Seer of Patmos, wrote that book of such poetic beauty, full of symbols that are sometimes difficult for us to understand, called the Apocalypse. At that time, the first Christians were harshly persecuted by the Roman emperors, who saw this small group of Christians as a danger to the traditional religion of the Roman Empire.

          And yet, in each case, what is advocated is not a violent response to the violence suffered, but an opening of the heart and a call to universal communion. In the Gospel passage known as the ‘Beatitudes’, Jesus does not say ‘Blessed are you who are my disciples’, or ‘Blessed are you who belong to such and such a group’. He proclaims blessed all those who have a poor heart, who are not turned in on themselves and their supposed riches, all those who are gentle and merciful, who know how to weep over the suffering of others, who thirst for justice and who are peacemakers, even if they are persecuted for adopting such an open attitude to all.


          These words of Jesus are surprising. They have very little to do with religion. There is no mention of religion in this text, not even of prayer. These beatitudes refer to real life - a life in which there are people who suffer and are consoled, people who are subject to their fate and are finally fulfilled, people who are hungry and thirsty for justice, people who are pure of heart and who work to bring peace to this world, but also poor people and the persecuted. A world, after all, not so very different from our own. And Jesus offers this world happiness. A happiness that is available to everyone, if instead of chasing after the idols of money and power, we opt for the reign of God. In this passage, Jesus offers a key to understanding the meaning of an ordinary human life made up of difficulties and struggles as well as purity of heart and beauty.

          The world we live in today is not so very different from that of the time when the Gospels and the Book of Revelation were written, or the letters of Saint John. It's a world where, despite the social and technical developments inherited from the revolutions and changes of the last few centuries, there are still a staggering number of people suffering from poverty and hunger, persecuted and driven from their homes and countries, unemployed and stripped of their dignity. A world where terrorist attacks are often carried out by young people who themselves feel deprived of a future and dignity.

How can we make sense of this world? Where can we find keys to interpretation?

          A few years ago, at the instigation of Pope Francis, a hundred or so Popular Movements were convened in Rome by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The list of Popular Movements gathered in Rome was impressive. It included the landless rural workers of Brazil, the street vendors of Kenya, the rubbish collectors of South Africa, the homeless of the Philippines, and the slum waste recyclers from many parts of the world. To all these people, in a speech full of warm humanity, Francis gave the key to the meaning of their lives. He said to these ordinary people: ‘Your meeting does not respond to an ideology. You are not working with ideas. You work with reality... You have your feet in the mud and your hands in the flesh. You have the smell of the neighbourhood, of the people, of the struggle. We want your voice to be heard...". And yet he did not call for violence, but for solidarity. With passion, he said, but without violence. And Pope Francis concluded his speech:

          "Dear brothers and sisters, continue your struggle. You do us all good. It's like a blessing of humanity".

          ‘A blessing of humanity’. There couldn't be a better definition of holiness.

Armand Veilleux