A Buddhist monk was asked to teach meditation at a prison near the monastery. Many of the inmates had never met a monk. After the first session, they began to ask him about his life in the monastery.
“We get up at four o’clock every morning,” the monk explained. “Sometimes it’s very cold because our rooms don’t have heaters. We eat only one meal a day, all mixed together in one bowl. In the afternoon and at night we eat nothing at all. There is no alcohol, of course, and we live as celibates. Nor do we have television, radio or music. We never watch movies; we do not play sports. We talk little, work hard, and sleep on the floor. We spend much of our free time in prayer and meditation.”
The inmates were stunned at the austerity of the monastic life. It made their high-security prison seem like a five-star hotel. One prisoner was moved with sympathy for the plight of their friend. “Why don’t you come in her and stay with us?”
The monk thanked the inmates for their kindness, but said he was happy as a monk. He had chosen this life in order to seek God in a community of like-minded souls. The love and care of his brothers made the hardships a joy. For the brothers, the monastery was not a prison; it was a place in which, the monk said, he has never been as free.
Sometimes in our lives we may feel like we are in a prison, an unfulfilling job, a broken relationship, a chronic illness, all can seem like a prison for us. Jesus in the Beatitudes presents to us a path, a road, to free us from our prisons. He gives us a new way of looking at our struggles.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus begins His teaching ministry by proclaiming a new way of living our lives. He is challenging us to a new perspective as to what is good and right and just in our world. He challenges us to see the goodness and holiness of those who have been made in His image and likeness.
He is also reminding us that it will not be easy, that our lives will be disrupted at times if we truly live the message of the Gospel, that there will be moments that we will need to challenge the status quo.
You will notice that Jesus does not say Blessed are those who are peace lovers but rather He says Blessed are those who are peacemakers, Why? Because Jesus knew that peace lovers may give into the temptation of peace at all costs which can lead to situations where Gospel values are compromised.
Living the Gospel, living as Christ challenges us to live, becoming the Body of Christ, the feast we celebrated yesterday, is not easy. But remember the last line of this famous passage, “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.”