Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
Sometimes there is a tendency for us to sentimentalize the Beatitudes – and see them as a misty model for how to live, yet they don’t guide our lives. However, they beatitudes give us a basic challenge for living. They force us to ask ourselves where we set our happiness. Is it on earthly things, or on spiritual things – on things that bring short-term pleasure – or on things that prevail into eternity?
When we look at the substance of these blessings we are reminded that God’s blessings are not just words. They are all about possessing “the kingdom of God”, of being eternally “satisfied” in union with God, experiencing “joy”, and possessing a “reward in heaven.”
Yet, what marks out the blessed has nothing to do with worldly loss. The blessed are disciples. “Looking at his disciples, he said: blessed are you ….” The disciples were marked out from the crowd, and particularly from the “woe to you” crew, because they possessed a certain type of poorness. They were “poor” in spirit, humble, broken before God and desiring, before everything else, their salvation. Theirs is a poverty that is hungry and thirsty for absolution. They desire to be right before God. Their poverty weeps for their lostness in the sight of God. Theirs is a poverty of rejection by the world that values things more than God, and they are reviled because they are following Jesus. So it begs us ask ourselves a critical question.
How has God blessed us? We talk about family, good marriages, good children and grandchildren.. Yet we are aware that no marriage is perfect, no children or grandchildren are perfect, but we dearly love them even in their imperfection. I am richly blessed with family and friends. Yet I have been disappointed at times with both, and I am sure they have been disappointed at times with me. Blessings always bring pleasure to life. If I sit down to list my blessings it is endless: good health and a body that works (perhaps somewhat less than it used to), finances enough to pay my bills, a good car that gets me to the places I need to go, a good church, a good community of people with differing values, who manage somehow to live freely with each other.
In other parts of the world there are people who have none of the things we have and think of as blessings. Still many of them have found genuine happiness and they don’t have television sets, telephone, electricity or other labor saving devices on which we are so dependent. Jesus reiterates to us in his beatitudes that true happiness and joy come from those qualities that are invisible. Love is invisible and happiness grows out of love. We can be poor and still have hearts of love. Our bellies can be hungry and still have hearts of love. True joy always comes from hearts filled with love. Jesus reminds us that our goal in life need not be the accrual of possessions but the accumulation of loving relationships with God and neighbors. These are all gifts or blessings of God’s love.
- Can you sit down and write a list of all your blessings?
- Which of your blessings will last into eternity?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.