There are things we do quietly. I remember walking up the stairs when I was a kid, coming in late at night, so as not to wake my parents. I still remember which steps creaked and just how to insert the key in the door so that it would not make noise. We had a dog, Rusty, and I made sure to have a dog biscuit for him as soon as I stepped inside the door. It took me a while to learn that trick, as well as putting the car in neutral and shutting off the engine so the car would quietly glide down the driveway. I guess you could call it stealth at an early age. Such is the art of not disturbing things-letting waking dogs be quiet, and sleeping parents at peace.
There were more times, later, I learned to be quiet so as not to make trouble. We have all learned such things.
I found a favorite place to listen to music, which was on the third floor of the house. I could look out my window at the skyline of
It was quiet up there. I had a desk and would write letters to my brother who was then stationed in
The beatitudes – words that are like light, and that are, in their brevity, more than enough in this brief, small space we have as life. Yet, one wonders why. There have been tomes written on human behavior, human life, human history – and unless these beatitudes are there, such tomes may as well have a huge hole in every page.
John O’Brien (one of our monks) mentioned in a homily some months back that the words of Jesus have something eternal about them. How else can we understand the beatitudes unless we find in ourselves a kind of resonance, a place in our being that says yes, I am that or want to be that or want to follow the meaning of these words.
So where is it that these words yet live?
We were taught to be quiet in church, so as to be better present to God and, I suppose, to pray to him and listen for his voice. The only voice I remember hearing is that of the good sister who warned us, out loud, not to say a thing. It is strange, when you think of it, that we must use words to point out the need for silence.
And so we speak of silence to find it.
We speak from darkness to seek light.
We speak from absence to locate and understand a presence.
We use words to situate what cannot ever be spoken.
We are give symbols to express the ineffable.
We are given the beatitudes to know something of the God who is about us and in us and who calls to us, from everywhere.
We know enough to be gentle and quiet – on the steps of our youth, in the quiet of our rooms as we read or gaze out at a great city in the making. We know when to tread gently with ourselves, with others, so as not to fall through the ice that can at times be right beneath our feet.
And so we listen again this morning to these words spoken long ago – and yes, as John said, these words have life. They are eternal. They rebuff our plans for power, prestige, finesse, advancement, title, ownership, one-upmanship. And in doing so they ask that we be gentle – that we learn from what is weak in ourselves and others. They ask that we be faithful to who we really are – but we must go quietly and gently through life in order to know who we are and where we are going. We have indeed inherited the earth. The invitation stands to move through it gently, and with love. A great city is in the making, and it is not ours. We are guests. The beatitudes, taken to heart and accepted, are its living stones.