Friday, 22 April 2011

Beatitudes of the Passion

The Kingdom of God is at hand! Throughout Holy Week, I have been reflecting not just on the passion of Jesus, but also on the Kingdom he began. The culmination of the Gospel was to give that life of his for us. And what else was his life, than the Kingdom of God? I realize that his passion cannot be separated from his public ministry, they are one. I am struck in listening to readings this week how Jesus with the same earnestness with which he sought the Kingdom, also seeks his fulfillment on the cross. So as I read the passion I try to make sense of its strangeness by bringing to mind some of the things Jesus did, the healing and reconciliation of the blind, the lame, the dispossessed. I try to take on the mind of the Beatitudes and see the passion in that light.

Jesus speaks so much of a detachment from the world so that we can give everything having once discovered the Kingdom:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus reveals the same detachment in his passion, wanting to let go of everything except his love for the Father. He wanted this Kingdom to come so much he gave everything that it might be built. Sometimes I can catch moments where God’s Kingdom is coming to life around me. Moments of friendship and community, of trust, joy and justice. There are also things which I know are not of the Kingdom. I am surrounded by distractions which take me away from what is being given. I need to detach myself from these so that I can really live fully in those moments when I know God is there. I need to be apart from the world so that something greater than me can come to fruition. Our life as Christians is always addressed to these moments, neither dwelling in the shadows nor idly wishing for what is not ours. It asks that we catch those moments of God’s presence and live in them, making our home where we belong. Our lives as Christians are for now, to build the kingdom of God which is growing among us as we speak.

I once met a young man who was entering religious life. His gift was that he was could draw, and before realizing his vocation, he had wanted to be a graphic designer or an architect after he left college. But he felt a stronger call to follow Christ. At just eighteen he was ready to join a novitiate on the other side of the world in the United States. On the last mass in his home parish, he was invited up to the front to talk about his vocation. He told the congregation about his love for God and about his love for drawing. He was chosen he said not just to be an architect but to be an architect of the Kingdom of God. The conviction of that young man remains with me. May we all become architects, or perhaps just the workers, in the Kingdom God is building. May we all give everything we have to catch the moments when love shines through our lives and remain in them casting all else aside. Seeing the passion through the Beatitudes I can almost see that in God’s eyes, these strange and unsettling events make sense, that the poor in spirit truly will inherit the Kingdom of God. For they are those who live in God’s presence and let go of everything that would take them away from him.

I keep coming back to these words from the Welsh poet R.S. Thomas:

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through

to illuminate a small field

for a while, and gone my way

and forgotten it. But that was the pearl

of great price, the one field that had

treasure in it. I realize now

that I must give all that I have

to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning

aside like Moses to the miracle

of the lit bush, to a brightness

that seemed as transitory as your youth

once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

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