Matthew 5: 1-12
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
You gave your life to save us.
You promised us the joys of the Kingdom.
You showed us the way we have to follow,
and you told us it can be a difficult road to take.
Guide us as we walk your path.
Smooth the way for us.
Give us courage for the bumpy bits.
Remind us we are blessed.
Walk with us.
I’ve always thought of the Beatitudes in a sort of warm and fuzzy way – perhaps because I’ve been taught from childhood that this is Jesus telling everyone – even the very worst off, that we are blessed by God and it will all work out in the end.
Jesus is actually telling us it won’t be easy to stay on track and to be part of God’s Kingdom. He’s preparing us to deal with the tough aspects of being a good Christian, and making it clear to us that by following his way, we’re going to run up against people who don’t agree with our approach, and we’ll have to make a stand for what’s right.
He’s telling us we’ll get our reward in heaven, and that in itself is a bit tough when quite a few of us would like a little bit of reward here on earth! But we have to accept that life isn’t like that, and every one of us has our problems to deal with. Life in the material world just can’t be perfect – not for anyone. But the eternal life Jesus is promising us if we can follow him will be perfect. And that’s something worth having, and worth putting up with the difficult bits of being true to our faith.
How difficult that is will depend on where we are and who we are. I’m lucky that I have enough, I’m not starving or homeless, but I can see that for those who are, it’s going to be harder to think of a spiritual life when your material needs are so demanding and urgent. For me, in the relatively peaceful UK where I can pretty much say and do whatever I want, it means I’ll maybe have a few of my atheist friends calling me a God-botherer; or I’ll be told by someone whose jokes I find offensive that I’m politically-correct; or I’ll have a heated debate about asylum seekers on social media and get called a few names. It’s hardly persecution as we know it.
But in other parts of our world, people are putting their lives on the line for following Jesus. Speaking out against wrong will result in prison and worse. In war zones, being a peacemaker is incredibly dangerous. But they still have the courage to do the right thing.
In our increasingly divided society, and especially in certain parts of the world, some people are simply hated for the faith they belong to anyway, whether they make any kind of waves or not. Holocaust Memorial Day which we mark this month is a reminder of how this hatred can gain the upper hand and become the prevailing view, causing indescribable suffering and poisoning all of our society.
So, even if we’re fortunate enough to be comfortable in our earthly lives, we need to keep looking back at the Beatitudes to remind us that we are called to stand with those who mourn and with the hungry; to be merciful and gentle, and to speak up for those who need us even if it makes us unpopular.
Salesian Communicaions Worker