Today we read in the Gospel the Beatitudes. They are found in both in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. They serve as a manual on how to live the Christian life.
They are not as clear as we would like and require reflection. There have been many reflections on the Beatitudes and I would like to offer one more.
The first one Blessed are the poor in spirit for
theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Luke just says the poor while Matthew added “in Spirit”. There has been much thought on what exactly poor means.
I remember when I was a student my community talk about the expression making the fundamental option of the poor, or being in solidarity with the poor. I asked whether the poor wants us to be in solidarity with them.
I know it’s not cool to criticize Mother Theresa but I remember watching a video and they were given space for a clinic and they ended up tearing out the rugs. I couldn’t help but wonder if the poor should be denied a nice place for their clinic. Was there some value in looking poor?
I am wondering if there is something useful for spiritual development when we feel like we are missing something. I wonder if missing something leaves room for God. We are not caught up in our own agenda but have the opportunity to be open.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. We must be prepared to mourn the pain and loss in our lives and in our world. If we will not transform our pain, we are bound to transmit it to others (R.Rohr).
Distracting ourselves with gadgets, alcohol, parties or the pursuit of some mindless goal separates us from opportunities for growth and living life to the fullest. If we are a serious follower of Jesus, we must do our own soul work if we ever hope to live fully as a follower of Christ.
Another one is blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. I remember when I was a student and for a summer job I worked for the Coast Guard I had two fundamentalist coworkers who were getting on my nerves and I remember retorting saying who wants to inherit the earth considering we have not been good stewards. I remember, to my surprise, my two coworkers agreeing with me.
I wonder exactly what Jesus meant. I propose for your reflection that Jesus is not talking about the planet per se. It has become clear to me that many people regard the Bible as an evacuation plan for when they die. They focus on the life after often dismissing the needs around them. Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of God is present among you? (Luke 17:21). So often Christians focus on the past or on the future. I propose that the beatitude reminds us to live in the present moment, the here and now.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Hunger and thirst are strong terms but speak of the depth and strength of the conviction here. Living for justice is challenging and will lead to personal sacrifice. I wonder what they will be satisfied with? Describing the seeking of righteousness as a hunger and thirst is powerful description. It is difficult to think of anything else when we are hungry and thirsty. I wonder if the satisfaction comes from being focused and committed to living righteously? We are not distracted by things that only bring us short term joy.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. We don’t hear the term mercy much these days. It has fallen out of favour. It’s too bad, as mercy stops the retaliation progression and descalates the conflict. Merciful people do not get swept up in conflict but rather work to reduce the tensions. Merciful people often look weak but in reality, they are strong because they are not swayed by societal pressures or expectations. They are their own person.
Blessed are the clean of heart for they will see God. What exactly is clean of heart? When I think of heart I think of passion, focused and being free from distractions, entitlements and meanness. Where is the passion in our lives? Seeing God is not to be taken lightly. To the first listeners this comment would be quite startling. In Exodus 33:20, it is written, “…but He added, “You cannot see My face for no one can see Me and live.” People averted their eyes to God lest they die. This beatitude seems to be talking about God having a special relationship with those who have a clean heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Peace is not an absence of conflict. It is not someone enforcing the peace. How is that different from bullying? True peace makers are rare yet so necessary for survival of society. Peace makers work for social justice and understanding in society. Without these two, peace would not be possible.
The last one is blessed are you when they insult you…a tough beatitude to hear. We cannot expect to be welcomed. It’s one thing to be insulted outside of the community but prepare to be rejected by people you love and trust.
These eight Beatitudes gives us direction on how to follow Christ. There are challenges and we will not always be successful. Let us not be discouraged but embrace the Beatitudes as a lifestyle designed to bring us closer to a deeper relationship with our God.