Idealistic young people are not the only people who yearn to change the world. Committed social workers and politicians share that desire, as do scientific and medical researchers. Parents always say that they want a better world for their children. Teachers too seek to equip students with the skills they need to make a difference. Who does not want to improve circumstances? The question is not do we want to change the world? It is, rather, who is going to do it?
Probably the first people to whom we look for this change are world leaders. They are the ones who make the major decisions. They are the ones who establish our economic policies, who declare war, or who broker peace. They are the movers and the shakers. Or are they? Not according to Jesus. In the message he proclaimed on the mountain, Jesus maintained that it is the people who are poor, or sorrowful, or meek, or hungry for justice, or merciful, or clean of heart, or peacemakers who will change the world. They might have to endure persecution in the process, but they are the real movers and shakers.
And what do they do to change the world? Paul tells us that “God chose the foolish to shame the wise...the weak...to shame the strong...the lowly..to reduce to nothing those who are something” (1 Cor 1:27-28). They live their lives according to the unselfish standards of the Gospel with love as their driving force, not according to the ego-centered standards of a selfish society with personal comfort or gain as its driving force. And who are these people? They are the humble of the earth; they are the ones who seek justice. Some of them are indeed world leaders and politicians. Others are shopkeepers, cab drivers or firefighters; managers, artists or newscasters; students or retired grandparents. They are people who do what they can to make life better for others.
The readings for today show us once again that God does not conform to the standards of the world, but rather turns those standards upside down. The Sermon on the Mount sketches a way of life that might be deemed foolish by many, but not by those who truly love. They will recognize the Beatitudes as examples of love in action, love that they already show toward their own loved ones. The challenge of these beatitudes is the call to show this love to all whose paths we cross. As we live in this way, we do indeed change the world as the true movers and shakers.