Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus goes up a mountain and sits down to teach. In the Old Testament, we find Moses, the great teacher, also going up a mountain to receive the Law and then sitting down to teach it. However, Jesus is not receiving a law; he is giving one.
Theologian N.T. Wright has pointed out that the Old Testament is essentially an unfinished symphony. It is the articulation of a hope but without a realization of that hope. Thus, as the fulfillment of Israel’s entire story, Jesus begins his primary teaching with the Beatitudes, a title that stems from the Latin noun beātitūdō, meaning “happy” or “blessed.”
Through this series of paradoxes, surprises, and reversals, Jesus begins setting a topsy-turvy universe aright. How should we understand them? A key is the Greek word makarios, rendered “blessed” or “happy” or perhaps even “lucky,” which is used to start each of the Beatitudes.
And so, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” We might say, “How lucky you are if you are not addicted to material things.” Here Jesus is telling us how to realize our deepest desire, which is the desire for God and not for passing things that only bring temporary comfort.