Jesus said: “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 5.3-11)
Almost every time I read the Beatitudes, I am amazed not only by the content of Jesus’ teaching, but also, when reflecting on the nature of the audience to whom he shared these words of wisdom, that he taught at all.
The sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics.(1) Such as these constituted the great crowds (who) followed (Jesus) from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.(2)
These were not happy people heading out of town to some pastoral, peaceful setting for a weekend spiritual retreat! They were grief-stricken and guilt-ridden, worried and world-weary, hungry and thirsty, impoverished and oppressed, sick and dying.
And what did Jesus do? When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and…he began to speak, and taught them, saying…(3)
Speak? It seems to me in the face of that mass of human need – the grieving, crying for relief; the guilty, release; the weary, rest; the hungry, bread; the poor, help; the sick and dying, healing – no one wanted words! Nevertheless, Jesus began to speak…saying, “Blessed are you…”
These words, the Beatitudes, far surpassing the compass of (at least, my) human reason, astounded the people. Then and now. For how can life, when beset by insuperable difficulty, when caught in the poet’s “fell clutch of circumstance,”(4) be blessed?
In subsequent posts, I, via my experience, shall share my first-person musings on the meaning of the Beatitudes.
One Caveat: I do not (I never) believe that I have the last (or first and, in either case, lasting) word about anything! I shall share what I think and feel, what I have come to believe and know (at least, to date).
(1) Matthew 4.24
(2) Matthew 4.25
(3) Matthew 5.1a, 2
(4) From Invictus (1875), William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
Illustration: The Beatitudes, James Tissot (1836-1902)