Being Blessed: Mid-Summer Meditations on the Beatitudes (1 of 10)

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)

An Introduction

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)

The Beatitudes, James Tissot (1836-1902)

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).

 
Footnotes:
(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)

2 thoughts on “Being Blessed: Mid-Summer Meditations on the Beatitudes (1 of 10)

  1. Paul,

    I am sooooooo Blessed!!! I love the Beatitudes!! They are AMAZING!! As we approach the 3rd anniversary of Tim’s death I am reminded of how comforted I’ve been, both by my friends and by God’s presence in my life!

    I’ve thankfully rarely been poor in spirit and have always tried to help those who were! Especially my Mom.

    One of the things I’ve prayed for is for “meekness” to make a return!! All this POWER and HOSTILITY so prevalent in our world today needs some meekness to even it out!! Thankfully there are lots of Peacemakers who are trying to do great things for love and justice against much opposition!

    It would have been so great to hear Jesus share these words in person!! You know how you watch a great speech or concert on TV and wish you’d seen it Live??? That’s how I feel about the teachings of Jesus!! Would have been cool to be there….

    These words have always given me so much hope, and such is still true this morning! So thanks for lifting me up!

    Much love!!

    Like

  2. Always, Loretta, thank you for reading and commenting.

    I believe I know what you mean when you write that you’ve “rarely been poor in spirit;” that is, that you’ve never lacked for vim, vigor, or vitality. Amen. You surely haven’t!

    Still, I believe Jesus is getting at something else. By poor in spirit, at least, as I understand it/him, Jesus means that one knows her/his deep need for God, thus, trusting not in one’s self, but, as the song sings, in God and God alone. This state of spiritual poverty, then, is to be a constant state of acknowledgment of our need of/for God.

    Moreover, usually in the Bible, when there is a list of things, the first item is the most importance, for all that follows springs from it. Hence, poverty of spirit is the state of being that makes way for mournfulness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, meekness, etc. (And, by the way, given your comment on meekness, I think that my view of what meekness is may surprise you!)

    Always, my thanks and my love,
    Paul

    Like

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