January 29, 2023
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ***
Over the years I listened to people express the consolation they found in this passage known as the Beatitudes and I never fully understood why. Amidst life’s struggles, questions, losses, loneliness and experiences of suffering, it seemed that the Beatitudes helped people consent to life in all its disappointments and messiness.
Now, years later I think I finally get it. Looking back, I realize the Beatitudes offer consolation by suggesting that nothing in this life is forever. I know that sounds odd. But read closely. Those who mourn, will be comforted. The merciful will receive mercy. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. The pure in heart will see God. The relief is palpable. The future tense of each blessed declaration pulses with hopefulness as we begin to glimpse the “kingdom of heaven” come in Jesus.
When you are in the midst of challenges and the weight of life’s day, perspectives narrow making it nearly impossible to see the kingdom of heaven which comes with the upside down nature of blessedness of which Jesus speaks. Perhaps that is a reason why these verses are so beloved. The Beatitudes urge us forward from whatever impinges heart and soul, pointing us to the burgeoning grace the kingdom of heaven come in Jesus.
One of my cherished prayers is known as “Bookmark”
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices. (Prayer of Saint Teresa of Avila)
The Beatitudes remind us that everything in this life is passing and when we come to embrace the transient dimensions of these times, peace can emerge.
In the book, “the Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes” Fr. Jacque Philippe writes, “When we cease playing at being life’s masters and consent to embrace what comes to us day by day, life becomes full of meaning.” This means coming to terms with not understanding everything, not having answers to all the questions. Relief is the gift when the questions of “why” cease.
Jesus’ beatitudes are nonsensical to us, if we let them be. How can weakness be powerful? How can peacemakers thrive in a world tinged with violence? How can persecution be a site of blessed transformation?
Jesus upturns the world based on our understanding of power and blessedness. And in doing so, the Beatitudes give us the courage to embrace life in the present moment, even in our trials and dark nights, trusting that God moves all things forward toward the goodness of the kingdom of heaven come in Jesus.