St. Edmund Campion Parish, Maidenhead

4th Sunday, Year A (29 Jan 2017)

‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven"

"Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up to the hill". Jesus escapes. He is the new fashion. He is giving out bread and going around curing people. He is very popular. But he is not at ease with this. He knows that he is being followed so much because he is curing people, but they are not really curious about who he is, and so he escapes.

How to escape? The way to escape from those kinds of people is not to just go down the road. He goes up the hill. To go up implies making an effort. They are not very interested in him as a person. By going up he avoids the people who are with him only for a superficial reason. But while he is going up the hill, a few young men start to follow him.

One of them, Philip, is a young man who is not an easy chap. Sometimes he is a bit confused. But his life has been complicated because of some issues at home and he often feels that he needs help, something that he hasn't experienced. So he is not as proud as before. He is genuinely seeking, he is poor of spirit. In the last couple of weeks, Philip has seen something new. He feels in his heart that this man, Jesus, is finally the answer to what he has been seeking.

Another, Andrew, is a gentleman. He is not a man of power. He has received so much love in his life from his family, and now from his wife, that he understands that the world is not moved by strategies but by love. And now this Jesus. Andrew has never seen this level of gentleness before. The man from Nazareth is a man who is genuinely interested in his life and in the destiny of others. This gentle language, this benevolence of Jesus has conquered Andrew. He follows Jesus even if he has to go up a hill in the middle of nowhere.

Another, John, is a boy, who is mourning the death of his father, along with his brother Jacob. Their mother has taken over after the father passed away. The death of the father has hurt the boys. They are wounded. They are mourning. They are full of violence. But now, they have found a father in Jesus. John loves him. His mourning has driven him to recognise Jesus as someone who has come from heaven. His wounds have made it possible to immediately understand the insistence of Jesus, speaking always to God as a father.

And so on. Judas finds in Jesus the fulfilment of his thirst for justice. Mathew, a merciful man, is overcome by Jesus' mercy. Tomas, a peacemaker, find his own peace only now in the Master.

So Jesus separates himself from the crowd but some still follow him. Jesus sits down. They sit down. Jesus looks at them full of emotion. He knows them well. He knows exactly why every one of them is following him up the hill. He sees why they are abandoning everything with joy, giving themselves over completely to follow him.

So he starts to speak:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;

theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle:

they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn:

they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:

they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful:

they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart:

they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers:

they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:

theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

Today it is the same. Some follow Jesus because they experience a fulfilment of their hearts. This is what Christianity is. Not just to come because of admission to the school, or a need for a social life, but out of curiosity: where is this coming from? What is behind the success of this school or the possibility of making friends here? This level of curiosity fills me with emotion. Happy are those genuinely curious about the one behind this community because they are more than a crowd, theirs is the kingdom of God.