This homily is based on Mt 5:1-12.
Believe it or not, one of the most spiritual movies I’ve seen is “The Matrix,” which came out in 1999. Written and directed by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski, this futuristic science fiction film is filled not only with great special effects and some fascinating action sequences, but also with a lot of religious and philosophical symbolisms. Its two sequels have managed to surpass the special effects and the box office earnings of the original, but when it comes to depth of meaning, in my opinion, they don’t even come close to the first.
Early in the first “Matrix,” the central character, Neo, played by Keannu Reaves, is offered two pills, a red pill and a blue pill. According to Morpheus, the red pill will reveal the truth, while the blue pill will allow Neo to go back to blissful ignorance and “business as usual.”
Neo asks Morpheus, “What truth?” “That you are a slave, Neo,” Morpheus tells him. “LIke everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch, a prison for your mind.”
Neo decides that he wants to know the truth, and he chooses to take the red pill. To his horror, he sees things as they are: The real world is ruled by machines that farm humans in vats, using them as a source of power. Everything Neo has known in his world has been nothing but illusion, the effect of the false sensory information that a giant virtual reality computer has fed into him and all the people in the world. The world as he has known it and the life he always thought he lived are but illusions created by the Matrix.
In many ways, we live in the Matrix. The safe daily routines of our lives, our familiar and comfortable surroundings, the numerous possessions we accumulate, as well as our accomplishments—all this can create a very comfortable illusion for us. If we’re not careful, we can get attached to all these things. We can get carried away and end up believing that we can have everything and we can live forever.
Today our Lord teaches us something that’s totally inapplicable and irrelevant to our lives and the world. In the Beatitudes, he invites us to become “poor in spirit.” Biblical scholars tell us that being poor in spirit means that we depend on God and primarily or only on him–not so much on ourselves, not on other people, not on riches and material things.
We’re all happy to claim that of course we depend on God. We believe this, but I think only in our head. We accept this but I think only intellectually. If we look at our usual lives, we live as if we don’t need God at all. Our world has a way of lulling us into believing that we can control our world and we can run our lives. Even if we know that we need God and that he is more important than anything else, we usually don’t feel it, and because we don’t feel it, we usually forget. We live happily with this illusion in our own version of the Matrix.
More dangerously, we hear–and without knowing it, fall for–the messages bombarded to us daily by the prevailing culture in our society, by media, that it’s cool to be rich and famous and to do whatever feels good even if it’s not necessarily right as long as you can get away with it. If we’re not careful, the Matrix we live in has a powerful way of convincing us that all this is true.
The Beatitudes is the red pill that the Lord is offering us—a pill that can cure us of our illusions. Make no mistake about it: It can be quite a bitter pill, one that’s hard to swallow. That’s why most of the time, we choose not to take it, preferring the blue pill offered by this world. After all, it’s a much sweeter pill–to be in denial, to delude ourselves that everything is all right and will be that way forever.
But if we want to see the truth and be freed from our illusions and attachments, we have to take the pill our Lord offers. The Beatitudes is medicine for the soul; it will reveal to us the truth. If we choose this red pill, we will begin to see things as they are: brief, ephemeral, and temporary. If we choose this pill, we will also begin to see ourselves as we are: fragile mortals totally dependent on God’s mercy.
That’s the beginning of becoming poor in spirit.
Is it difficult for you to choose the red pill–i.e., to accept the Beatitudes? Why so?” Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.
(image: from “The Matrix”)