“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.”
– Matthew 5:1–10 (New Revised Standard Version)
Few passages from the New Testament quoting Jesus cause more consternation among people who seek to follow his way of peace and reconciliation than the Beatitudes.
What Jesus said powerfully contradicts almost every impulse people have.
Almost all the great faith streams have similar passages imploring people to be the way they should be rather than the way they are.
It’s a tough sell, because being better, much less being good, requires turning away from our own self-interest and placing a higher value on others, and on a relationship with God.
It surely has occurred to many people in our current situation that all the Democrats and Republicans who savagely fight one another across the political landscape could use a strong lesson in the Beatitudes.
Many a preacher has said the Beatitudes have become too comfortable because they are so familiar. Just imagine Jesus telling crowds of his followers – most of whom surely viscerally despised the Roman Empire, its agents and many other people not like themselves – to completely change.
Even so, it’s so easy to see what Jesus wanted of his hearers then, and now.
He seeks people who will receive his message of God’s love and mercy and act accordingly.
In his brief but enduring ministry, he frequently noted people who were so self-sufficient, righteous, and inflated with what they thought were the good things in life, yet viewed him and his message with hostility.
The hungry and thirsty who most greatly desire food and drink from the spirit of God are the ones who become satisfied.
The enduring truth is obvious: When everything’s going well, as in prosperous times, our need of God’s goodness and mercy – and forgiveness – gets lost in a fog.
But when life spins out of control, and we are uncomfortable and deprived, then we recognize our insufficiency, and it comes as very Good News that the eternal, supernatural and great high God is our caring parent and not a condemning judge.
Some people choose to ignore that possibility, and their inner peace seldom improves.
The simplicity of what Jesus of Nazareth offered is nothing less than authentic humanity. We are not called to be little autonomous gods, but fully human people who understand that God’s imprint is on us and in us, empowering us to live the Beatitudes – in happiness.