The Sermon of the Mount is Good News. Jesus looked at the people with compassion, loved them and gave them Good News for their lives.
He saw people who were desperate, needing to beg God for the strength to carry on, for the strength to draw another breath. He saw people who were not independent and confident of their self-sufficiency and he said to them "I tell you that you are blessed. You are happy. You are the fortunate ones. For the kingdom of God is not conquered by those who are strong but given to those who know they are needy. Blessed are you the poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus saw sadness written on the faces of some who had lost something so good and so valuable to them. He looked on those who missed being happy and were tempted to believe that their sadness would never end, or that happiness was only for other people. Jesus looked on them and he said to them "Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be consoled" Perhaps it is akin to what Jesus said concerning the adulteress woman who kept kissing Jesus' feet and washing them with her tears and her hair, "Those who are forgiven much, love much. Those who are forgiven little, love little." Jesus declares the sorrowful to be happy because the comfort and consolation that awaits them will far exceed their sorrows. He promises them that their emptiness will be filled and they will know happiness again. The future tense indicates that they must be willing to wait for it.
Jesus is able to see the people in front of him that do not buy into the prevailing world view that we must either return evil for evil against our enemies, or else prepare to live in submission under the whims of other people. He sees within their hearts some degree of readiness to be patient in their anger and to cooperate with God's kind of justice rather than trying to achieve peace by dishing out vengeful punishments. He sees some people who are ready to entrust themselves and the world to God's own path to victory and freedom. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth".
Jesus sees people who know what it is to be hungry and thirsty; who have not known a full stomach or a happy palate, who might feel tempted to envy the rich and suppose that they could be filled with their version of satisfaction. Jesus appeals to them, that they stand at the door to the only food and drink that can truly satisfy. He tells them that true happiness is a constant hunger to do justice and a constant thirst for rightness in the eyes of God. Our happy gaze into the very eyes of God is not given to those who are satisfied, but only to those who are unsatisfied with anything less than seeing God in the face.
These and all the Beatitudes are good news for those who followed Jesus up the mountain. They are real words for real people. Do we hear Jesus speaking good news to us? Or, are we confused by his words and wonder if he might be talking to somebody else?
+ Father Chauncey