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 be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV, Matt. 6, 1-12)
*Beatitude: Taken from the Latin word beatitudo for blessedness.
Upon reflecting on a recent development that demonstrated what I had long suspected as the truth about a ‘close’ relationship being somewhat lop-sided, I had a sudden epiphany concerning the way most people in Christendom interpret the Beatitudes.
When I look around me, I see so many beautiful things in nature: birds, butterflies, flowers, animals, sunsets, stars at night, waterfalls, etc. Upon further, deeper inspection of these wonders, I discover that they are, without exception either simply trying to survive in a vicious environment bent on destruction or they are indeed the very agents of that destruction.
Many people would consider such a notion as negative or cynical in nature, perhaps even destructive in and of itself, but I disagree. The truth remains the truth: there are two states of being in the universe 1.) The rise 2.) The fall.
All living creatures from humans down to the smallest microbe spend most of their existence, however short or long, struggling for survival. The higher lifeforms enjoy a few short bursts of happiness in the form of play and/or social interaction with each other. The majority of their existence is spent in pain, worry, illness, fear, uncertainty, despair, dreams or denial of the truth by means of so-called ‘positive thinking’.
I am not against ‘positive thinking’, do not misunderstand. I have learned to use ‘positive thinking’ in order to make my own existence more pleasurable than it actually is. There is always hope. I could win the lottery! I could become rich and famous! I could discover the cure for cancer!
These are generally unrealized hopes, but hopes, like dreams, are intangible as well as infinite and just thinking about them, however absurd they may be, can uplift the spirit and make the day a bit brighter if not more humorous. I always encourage everyone I meet to think positive, count their blessings; remember that things could always be worse.
Now what, you may ask does this have to do with the Beatitudes? I believe that like all human beings, Jesus, being a son of God, had a sense of humor. I know that interpretation of His word is always a dangerous pastime and I know that He, Himself, preached to the masses of His time and His sermons contained messages for every level of intellectual development from the mind of a three-year-old child to the mind of Albert Einstein.
At any rate, I was going through the Beatitudes in my head this Memorial Day morning when it suddenly occurred to me that Jesus may have been playing with words of irony when He spoke these famous lines.
For a moment, suspend your own personal beliefs about Jesus for just a moment and think not of His Divine Nature, but of his humanity. Look at the Beatitudes from a different perspective for just a moment and imagine yourself there on the mount with Him.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (How do we get to Heaven? We must die, of course. The poor in spirit will get theirs in Heaven.)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (So we must be in mourning to be blessed and comforted, of course. How else can we be comforted if we are not already devastated?)
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Of course the meek will inherit the earth because it will be dumped on their heads by the strong.)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Righteousness is subject. Whose definition of righteousness should we follow? Christian? Muslim? Hindu? Buddhist? And what will we be filled with? Righteousness? Righteous Indignation at what we perceive as another’s unrighteousness? Who can say?)
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Since this is definitely not what happens on earth, this must be referring to what happens in Heaven. Again, we can look for mercy from God, because many times it cannot be found on earth and, in fact, direct observation will show that many good, decent merciful people are given no consideration, no quarter by nature or fellow human beings, but treated to rather inexplicable acts of cruelty and meanness.)
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (This cannot be spoken to and is totally subjective in nature. We can believe it if we are Christians and know that Jesus would never tell a lie, but we also know that we will never see God. Why? Ask yourself: Is your heart perfectly clean? Is your heart pure? Are your thoughts perpetually clean? Even Mother Theresa doubted herself. Only the tiniest infants can be said to have pure hearts and surely they must see God; they just don’t remember it later. And if that is true, then we have ALL seen God. A great paradox.)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Who will call them Sons of God? Those who wanted peace, of course, but the warmongers will call them traitors and cowards. This will not matter in the end for words are just sticks and stones. So, as Hilary Clinton would say ‘What difference does it make?’ what people call you? Now, on the other hand, if it is God, Himself, calling you ‘Son’ or ‘Daughter’, that is something altogether different. One can only hope.)
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Once more, the Kingdom of Heaven can be had for one price: death. True enough, we are all going to die, but those of us who are persecuted for our beliefs in what is right and wrong have only persecution awaiting them until death. Not very comforting, unless we are constantly setting our eyes on the afterlife. A noble goal, but hard to achieve and maintain.)
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Christians are certainly blessed in this sense. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said this. Of course, if you are a Christian, you already know that Jesus knew what He was talking about. Sometimes, however, Jesus knew what He was talking about, but WE didn’t. It is hard to keep the faith in the face of adversity and walk that thin line between sanity and insanity. Jesus did not approve of the Zealot movements of His time. He had every opportunity to take up arms and become another in a long line of Jewish Messiahs who were suppose to overthrow the enemies of God by force.)
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (This last verse is the ‘Reveal’ or in biblical terms ‘Revelation’. Jesus was talking about death in this sermon. Death and the hope in life after death. He was trying to tell us that life on earth is cruel, is hard, is difficult. He is trying to tell us that life is no picnic and He is trying to tell us that our Hope lies in the spiritual realms after death in the physical world. He is trying to give us hope of escape from this life’s troubles and woes, but He is also telling us how difficult it is to live up to our own expectations of perfection. He is telling us that none of us is worthy and yet, he is telling us that All are worthy. He is telling us that we are All going to Heaven. That we are All Sons and Daughters of God.)
Now you may have forgotten by now the lop-sided relationship I referred to at the beginning of this rambling epistle. And perhaps that is a good thing and I should let it go, but just in case you didn’t forget, I will conclude as I started by talking about that relationship just a bit.
The relationship had been flagging for quite some time and I had been blaming myself because I had been told again and again that I am a self-centered ‘genius’ without little feeling for others unless those ‘others’ were somehow indulging my one-track-minded pursuit of writing. I had been told this so often, I began to believe it. Then reality intervened and I discovered the truth.
The exact opposite was true. The only time my writing became a point of interest was when the relationship seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Suddenly, my writing became important as an ill-disguised attempt to appease me and lull me into the false belief that my life’s work meant something.
After waking to this reality, everything fell into place. I saw that I was not near as interesting or significant as I had been led to believe. And I saw the humor of the situation and how silly I had been to think so in the first place. I saw the vast gulf that lay between myself and what I had perceived as my world. I saw that I really did not belong there at all and I saw all the puzzling clues I had missed before in their true light. I saw my actual position on the ladder of life and I saw that the ladder was not one, but many branching, twisting, turning ladders that not only led upwards, but downwards and even sideways. I saw that I was on a sideways ladder, going neither here nor there and I saw that I had to make a move one way or another before I could even make a meaningful choice.
Being a Libra I tend to work always for balance, trying not to tip the scale too far left or right, trying to conciliate compromise and concede cooperation until everyone is happy, but me.
How, you may ask, if that is so, could I have been thought to be self-centered? Good question.
Today, I am going to try to make myself happy, if I can figure out how to do that. I keep thinking of other people. Wondering what they are doing, how they are feeling, if they need anything, if perhaps I should call them or send them a message or offer to do something for them. These are the things that nag at my mind all the while I am awake. Did I forget someone’s birthday? Did I forget to ask about someone’s health? Did I forget a significant anniversary? Did I do everything I could to make those around me happy? Did I do what was right? Did I say the wrong thing?
How can I make myself happy if all these doubts are racing through my head? If I could gain answers to all these questions, perhaps I would be happy if the answers were positive, but if they were positive, could I trust the source?
So you see, suffering is the nature of life and suffering does not wait for us to call it to ourselves, it is always there, always just around the corner, waiting and lurking, lurking and waiting, waiting, just waiting for us to make the tiniest mistake in judgment or a slight miscalculation.
But the thing is, we must all live until we die and die we must. Meanwhile, we should concern ourselves not with life and death, for those two will concern themselves with us, but how we handle what life has in store for us and how we die so that we may look forward to the peace that awaits us on the other side.