4 Epiphany – Year A

Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Mathew 5:1-12

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

                The Beatitudes of Jesus echo the Prophet Micah who said: “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)  This is impossible if we are focused on ourselves, impossible if we think dualistically that we stand alone and are separate from others, impossible without compassion.   Compassion means to suffer with others, not just feel sorry for them.  We cannot “walk humbly with our God” if our ego is so tightly self-enclosed that we are unable to suffer when others suffer.  The Beatitudes of Jesus, among other things, are a list of sufferings.  Jesus calls these suffering people “blessed.”  That is counterintuitive.  The word actually means “happy.” (see Greek below)  To say they are happy is even more counterintuitive than to say they are blessed.  How can the poor in spirit, or those who mourn, or those hungering, be happy?  Jesus is obviously more radical than we would like him to be, nevertheless let us not tame him.  Jesus is wildly stretching our conventional way of thinking.  Both Jesus and the Dalai Lama know “If you want to be happy, practice compassion,” suffer with and for other people.  Yet if we practice compassion merely for the purpose of being happy, we are caught up in the ego again, and become self-centeredly sad.  It must be done naturally, almost thoughtlessly.  Practicing compassion will lead us to suffering and happiness at the same time.  Life is often a paradox.  Those mentioned in the beatitudes are happy because they selflessly turned toward others.  They are free.

Greek

                Translating the word as “blessed” in Matthew 5 is another example of how we have taken words that in the day of Jesus had ordinary meaning and we have given them a technical religious meaning today.  The word simply means “happy” in Greek.  It is translated “happy” in the Jerusalem Bible but not in the New Jerusalem Bible, both Roman Catholic translations.

Haiku

An upside down world

with compassion for others

sets us free in joy.

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