by Sarah Brock
AM Psalm 106:1-18 PM Psalm 106:19-48
Ruth 1:1-14; 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Blessed are the merciful
Blessed are the pure in heart
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and
utter all kinds of evil against you
Growing up, I always found the Beatitudes to be a little confusing whenever they came up in church or Sunday School. Those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the meek, the reviled and persecuted – these don’t sound like blessings to me. And, if this is what it means to be blessed, most days I’m still really not sure I want any part of it. Why is it that a direct connection is drawn between our experience of pain and blessing?
Where are the beatitudes for those who are joyful, those who are loved, those who are full and rich and comfortable?
I am much more comfortable with the beatitudes that are shared on social media.
Bae took me out for sushi #blessed
I get to be in puppy heaven 24/7 ~ 365 days a year! #blessed
Placed gold in city championships! #blessed
I threw my phone at the wall and it didn’t break #blessed1
While I certainly don’t want to judge or minimize the gratitude that each of these experiences brings to these individuals, this doesn’t seem to be what Jesus means when he talks about blessing.
What is it that we find in our pain that blesses us most through those bits of life?
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
for they will be comforted
for they will inherit the earth
for they will be filled
for they will receive mercy
for they will see God
for they will be called children of God
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven
Jesus seems to have anticipated these questions and includes the answer along with each blessing. And while they are specific to each type of suffering, essentially his answer is always the same: relationship.
To receive, to be comforted, to inherit, to be filled, to see, to be called- these can only come to be through relationship and community.
When we are joyful and loved and full and rich and comfortable we don’t need each other in the same way. When we are joyful and loved and full and rich and comfortable we don’t need God in the same way. But, when we experience deep mourning and persecution and are unable to meet our basic needs, there is nothing left but to place all our trust in God. It’s in these moments or phases of our lives that we rely fully on our faith, on the kindness of friends and family and strangers, and on God to get us through and keep us going. Jesus is illustrating the deep connection between blessing and the vulnerability that deepens our dependence on community with each other and God.
Just a few months ago, Pope Francis offered new beatitudes for the modern church.
“Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.
All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness. Surely they will receive from him their merited reward.”2
What beatitudes would you add? What times of struggle and pain have brought you blessing? When in your own need have you most depended on God and your neighbor?
Sarah Brock is a postulant in the Diocese of Massachusetts and lives in Boston.
1Tweets from @ali_taoo, @J2_the_double_N, @TheRealLeak54, and @Maryjanecxx on 2/19/17
Image Credit: Wikimedia