January 29 — Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Best Self?: a Sunday Scriptures blog

For a number of years, people and advertisements and self-help literature have talked about “being your best self” or the “best version of yourself” or other similar expressions. It is aspirational language, and there is something attractive about it. But it also is ambivalent terminology, for what really is a “best self?” Is a best villain a best self? A best autocrat? A person who has developed his or her special ability to the highest degree? In our Gospel this week (Matt 5:1-12a), we hear Matthew’s beatitudes (Luke’s version is found in Lk 6:17ff). The beatitudes are Jesus’ version of what a “best” human person looks like — a character sketch, a list of attitudes and virtues for a best self. Books have been written about the beatitudes. They are challenging. The list of beatitudes starts with “blessed are the poor” who have nothing but their trust in God (poor “in spirit”). Putting this beatitude first asks the listener to notice them, take account of the poor, and in another beatitude, to be merciful. Blessed are the peacemakers — most of us are not too good at this, and the world sure needs us to be! A strange beatitude is “blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” Biblical scholars tell us that “righteousness” refers to conformity to the plan or will of God, and in particular to the moral codes that bring us into conformity or relationship with the good God. Matthew presents Jesus as a second Moses, giving beatitudes instead of commandments. Much more could be said about these beatitudes, but here’s the thing: The best self behind the beatitudes is a self that is focused not only on itself! It’s focused on others, on the larger society, and of course on God. What is your idea of being your best self? Does Jesus’ list add anything?

— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia

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