What do you know about ‘alternate facts?’
For better or worse, the American public was introduced to a new concept this week – alternate facts. The initial tiff was over the size of the inauguration crowd: “The crowd was Hyuuge – biggest ever!” – Well, not it was not the biggest ever. Then it continued. “Over 3 million people voted illegally in this past presidential election.” There is not a shred of evidence to point out that this might be true. How do you explain that? They are alternate facts, we were told. Hmmm…
Alternative facts – the philosophy major in me cringes at that combination of words. Yet, I wonder if someone hearing today’s gospel might think the very same thing about the words WE just heard? If they would wonder – “What planet is that person living on, because it sure is not the one I am living on. “Blessed are the poor, the meek, the mourners; those hungering and thirsting?” Because it certainly does not look like the meek are inheriting the earth. It does not look like the poor in spirit are blessed. That the hungry are having their fill. You only have to read the front page news to know that this vision is not the truth. It is an alternate fact. Or is it?
There is very little evidence, at least that is externally, that might lead one to trust/believe that the vision of the beatitudes is a reality. Ask the Christians in Allepo, Syria if the meek even have a city left to return to? Ask the parents of the kids still held captive by Boko Harem, if they feel comforted? As those who hunger and thirst for the opportunity to learn and live in this great country – if they are feel like they own the kingdom of God.
But here is the rub. Fact checkers will not help you ‘see this world.’ Is a matter of trust. And a matter of belief. And a matter of hope that the One who claims to be the Son of God, does indeed have an inside track on what is true and right and good in this world. And what does HE see? What ‘alternate world’ does he KNOW to be true?
• An alternative fact world wants to avoid suffering and pain. Jesus says- those who open themselves to sorrow will find the ultimate consolation.
• We hate being overlooked, being passed by, neglected, unappreciated. We want to be Number One in all things. Yet Jesus says that the lowly, those on the underside of life will inherit the land.
• We scavenge to inflate ourselves, to satisfy ourselves with people, projects, things. The sermon on the mount counsels us to abide in our hunger for holiness, to live as a thirst for justice.
• We of divided hearts and mixed desires, we wonder why we feel so unhappy. He says that in purity of heart and wholeheartedness we find bliss and see God.
• And peacemakers? Those do – gooders, those bleeding hearts? See how far that will get them in Syria, in the ‘real world.” – and yet they will be the true children of God.
Perhaps this is why Jesus thinks his followers will be persecuted for holiness’ sake. His wisdom is an insult to natural cleverness. The beatitudes are assault on the rational, human way to live. They are an “alternative fact” world. It doesn’t make sense – you say. And you would be right. And wrong at the same time.
You would be wrong because we know in Jesus the one who lived this every day of his life. Jesus can tell us of this reality, because he has lived it himself.
Ask me about being poor – I used to dwell in eternity.
Ask me about mourning – I was there at Lazareth’s tomb. I have cried over the city of Jerusalem, I have wept for a people’s sin. But I was still blessed.
Ask me about hungering and thirsting. – I knew it in the desert, I knew it as I thirsted for the faith of the woman at the well, I was empty of even a ‘place to lay my head’ – but I was blessed.
Ask me about mercy – better yet, ask the woman caught in the act of adultery.
Ask me about singleheartedness, – after I spent those long, lonely nights at prayer with my father, and realize I need to move on from my places of success and comfort to the city of Jerusalem – the city of my death…
Ask me about peacemaking – and persecution – I have known both. And I have still been blessed.
So you see, the beatitudes are the expression of what Jesus knew in himself; the result of living the life of discipleship, of absolute faith and trust in God. Here is what it means to BE sons and daughters of God. This is the world of the kingdom.
And now WE have a choice. De we view the Beatitudes as alternative facts? Or, are they the Truths necessary for Salvation. It’s your call!