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A New Outlook. Chapter Ten from The Alabaster Jar by Theresia Saers

A New Outlook

Chapter Ten from The Alabaster Jar by Theresia Saers

‘How happy are you, my poor people of Galilee, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.’

In these opening words of a long speech Matthew introduces the term heaven, a word which we find hard to appreciate. Still, Jesus’ teaching really includes the promise of a better future for the many poor and ignorant country folk who often lead such miserable lives. He leaves no doubt whatever that this is a reality; never fills in any details, yet is very firm on the subject, ‘If it were not so, I would have told you,’ he insists. He tells parables, not fairy tales.

It is quite possible that at the time when Matthew writes down this word ‘heaven’, they have already heard of Paul´s astonishing visions. Paul tells about ‘the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.’ Whatever the tribulations of life, says Paul, they are as nothing compared with the joy that awaits us. The insight provides a powerful motive for the apostle himself to meet with courage and indeed with joy whatever sufferings and persecutions may be in store for him.

‘How happy are you who mourn, you will be comforted.’

There seems to be no end to the procession of suffering people that Mary meets around Jesus but she observes him comforting all those that come to him in the right frame of mind, for he leaves people in no doubt that there is a relation between faith and healing. The women around Jesus understand full well the guidelines he sets.

‘Happy are you, the gentle, you shall have the earth for your heritage.’

The poor of this world with their capacity to bear ever more blows and losses, people so humble and gentle, so little inclined to bring about the downfall of others.

‘Happy are you, my followers, who hunger and thirst for what is right: you shall be satisfied.’

When Mary and the women heard about the murder of John the Baptist, or when they saw how Jesus was treated by the authorities of Israel or how poor widows were being treated most unfairly by Pharisees, they were shocked and scandalised by the injustice of it all. How they must have welcomed the comforting words of their Rabbi, when they tried to act differently: ‘Happy you, my disciples, who are showing mercy, you shall have mercy shown to you.

‘Happy you pure in heart, you shall see God.’

The pure in heart, those that like Mary, have no mixed motives, but unconditional love. She has recognised God in her Rabbi. To the other disciples he has to insist again and again, ´Remember, when you see me, you see my Father.´

‘Happy, you, peacemakers, you shall be called children of God.’

‘Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.´

We wonder what terrifying visions may have been on Jesus’ mind when he spoke about persecutions. He himself and most of the Twelve as well as millions of his later followers would suffer martyrdom because of the things he was teaching to these poor folk of Galilee. Actually Mary was already at the receiving end of the same contempt and harassment of Jewish authorities that John and Jesus himself had been suffering all the time. For a healer like Jesus it must have been a most awful perspective, filling him with a need to look forward to a final reckoning. He insists, ‘Happy you, when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

© Theresia Saers

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