Schedules and calendars seem askew this winter. First, the snowstorms that have slowed us down, taken us off the streets, and postponed winter events. Then the calendar reveals that Lent doesn’t start until March. Up to now, February has always been associated with giving up and doing without, a dreary time indeed. This year those qualities have been postponed until March and April. The church puts a better perspective on Lent in any month: prayer, fasting and almsgiving; nonetheless, despite one’s best efforts to remake those seasonal images, childhood memories of a candy-less time persist. This winter has included disorientation on a very basic level.

Looking at the bigger picture, one views a major shift in the public sphere. It looks as if the Middle East is undergoing dislocation-with what consequences? Financial shortfalls on the state level are leading to draconian cuts in services-who will feel the effects? And locally the snow banks line the streets, with potholes multiplying the risks for pedestrians and drivers.

And for all that, we heard the Gospel for one of the Sundays in Ordinary Time proclaiming a different perspective: Blessed are . . . the merciful, justice-seekers, the poor in spirit, mourners. These don’t make the state of things different in any measurable way, nor do they make things all right. Yet, in some way, the beatitudes affect us; they make us stand taller, see a new perspective, take charge of things, believe more deeply, call upon God with a grown-up’s trust. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure of heart, peacemakers, those who suffer persecution. Those are human alternatives, human choices.
A lifelong set of choices to be and to give one’s best to the common human endeavor.

Those who walk the way of the beatitudes pin their faith in these words; they believe that they will be truly blessed, even when the little world we live in and the big world we’re part of seem disoriented. They believe that choosing the way of the beatitudes can be believed in and that they will make a difference. After all, what is the alternative: Blessed are the greedy, the proud, the self-absorbed? Blessed are the scoffers, the merciless, the untrustworthy?

Perhaps it isn’t such a clear dichotomy, an either/or set of choices. Perhaps the perfection of the beatitudes is beyond our reach. Still, better to lean toward that vision than toward the opposite. The ordinary moments of daily life open doors to a place far from ordinary, well in the territory where the beatitudes give perspective and bring a blessing on the little world where we live every day.

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