I don’t profess to have a keen intellect in regards to things of an economic nature. I couldn’t tell you, other than to repeat, perhaps, what I heard on NPR all the things that led to the collapse of the mortgage industry, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Lehmann Brothers, etc. But what I can say, with I hope, a bit of confidence, is that the movers and shakers of this country did not do their ethics research. They were pretty blind to the consequences of their actions, both intended and non-intended. Most of them knew that what they were doing was questionable at best and downright despicable at worst. These were the movers and shakers of our economy, and they failed the common good miserably. And I, like many, have seen enough.
I wonder if Jesus felt the same way in his day, as he looked out to his social and economic world. All those years of living at Nazareth, working in his dad’s shop, traveling to Galilee (a day’s walk or so to the ‘beach’), seeing the bustle of life at Capernaum, and the ‘big city’ of Jerusalem were shaping him. Observing and watching his world during those quiet years before he began his public ministry, combined with his connection to his father were building to a climax. And perhaps, like most of us in our day, he had seen enough. John’s arrest caps it all off. So when he begins his public ministry, when he first sits down to teach ‘the crowds’ about what he has seen and what he believes, what do we hear? What does Jesus see in people/our world?
“Let me tell you who the real movers and shakers are. They are not whom you think they are. They are not the leaders and policy makers, who declare war and broker peace, who establish policy and run the commerce. Because those types of people never get it right. They forget, lost in the worlds of their own making, what life is like at the bottom, at its most basic and simple and pure. Do not look for these people to change the world – because they’ll never get it right. Rather, look to those who are poor, or sorrowful, or meek, or hungry for justice, or merciful, or clean of heart, or peacemakers – these are the one who will change the world. They might have to endure persecution in the process, but they are the real movers and shakers.” These are the ones who are blessed.
That is what Jesus tells us. And that is the refrain that Paul picks up in our second reading. God chooses the “foolish to shame the wise…the weak chosen to shame the strong…the lowly…to reduce to nothing those who are something.” These are the ones who will live their lives with love as their driving force, and not with personal comfort or gain as its driving force. And when Jesus describes that kind of person, that kind of mover and shaker, it comes out so simply: Blessed are poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, the ones who hunger and thirst justice, blessed are the merciful.
The danger, though, with these easy sounding phrases is that we read these beatitudes as nice and pious sounding thoughts, a comforting message to those who are victims on the forgotten side of life. But make no mistake about this: The Beatitudes and the sermon that follows it is Jesus’ dropping of the gloves, throwing down of the gauntlets, putting the world on notice that things needed to change – AND, that PEOPLE needed to change. They sketch out the path of love in action, love that is willing to suffer persecution for the sake of establishing the kingdom. We are to live this love to all that we meet.
So, this week, pick a beatitude, any beatitude! Hunger and thirst for righteousness, show mercy, mourn with those who grieve, be a peacemaker. But whatever you do, LIVE that beatitude into all the situations of your world – home, job, neighborhood, and community and world. Because the truth is we are all called to be movers and shakers – not as the world defines that, but as our savior defines it.