Last week, I travelled to Palmerston North to support Brother Peter Bray’s speaker tour “Greetings from Palestine”. I was made to feel so welcome by the parishioners who had gathered to hear him. They were quick to introduce themselves, to tell me about what they had learnt, ask me questions about myself, or even just smile and nod at the stranger in their midst. I had a lovely time.
However, hearing about the plight of the Palestinian people trying to live ordinary lives in occupied West Bank and Gaza, was sobering and immensely sad. The determination of the young students at Bethlehem University, where Brother Peter is Vice-Chancellor, to never give up on their education and remain peacefully resilient in the face of aggression, is deeply moving. I remain angered and inspired by what I heard. The evening news tells us that tensions in the area continue to rise.
Last Sunday at Mass, we encountered the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12, those statements so full of comfort and solace for followers of Jesus. The original audience also lived in an occupied homeland. This Sermon is said to have occurred just North of the Palestinian land that is occupied today. There is a horrible symmetry to the way the Palestinian people are having their human rights violated, just as the Jewish people suffered under Roman rule. Let us pray that all who have their home in the Holy Land today find a path to peace.
We too can find strength in the Beatitudes. You don’t have to be in the midst of conflict to connect with them. The blessings are reassuring, letting us know that our suffering on earth will be rewarded. That living meekly and selflessly is ok in this competitive world. We don’t have to be assertive and push to the front of the crowd to be blessed, and we don’t have to be rich to be valued. We can step back and give our ego a rest. Be ourselves.
For each individual listening to the Beatitudes, there is a different suffering, and a different comfort to be found. That is where they are most powerful for me. For example, no one has ever accused me of being meekand, truth be told, that is unlikely to ever be the case, but I have mourned. I have hungered for justice and felt dreadfully poor in spirit. And I have certainly been mocked for being a Christian. Plenty of times. I thank Jesus that the Beatitudes provide a means of making some sense of our suffering and make it bearable.
There is hope in the Beatitudes. Brother Peter tells us that there is hope in Palestine. In Christ, there is always hope.Reflection , Featured , More about our Church