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A Life Worth Living, According to Jesus: Reflections on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)

To be blessed is to be given a gift, and in the Beatitudes, Jesus directs our attention to some rather odd blessings, all of which, he tells us, bring us near to God. 


To be poor in Spirit is to be humble and know that you are not God. To be humble is to get out of God’s way in our own lives so that we enter into His Kingdom and experience His will being done. It is to know our sin, weakness, and limitation.


To mourn our sins, to feel sorrow for how we’ve dishonored or displeased the God who loves us is to enter into the comfort of a merciful God who meets us and forgives us in Christ. Through Christ, it is to enter in to the words of the prophet: “fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).*


From the perspective of our mourning, we relate to others not from a place of self-righteousness but from a place of gentleness, keenly aware of our solidarity in sin. Comforted in God’s mercy, we treat other sinners gently, and see that the world is not something to be conquered, but will be, in time, God’s gift to us as His heirs.


Rooted in humility, humbled by our weakness and spiritual poverty, mournful over the state of our lives, we seek what we do not have, righteousness. In our seeking for what we don’t have, we come to value it. We desire to make it our own, and discover that our hunger for righteousness is God’s gift for attaining it.        


Yet, we do not compete for righteousness; we do not evaluate our righteousness in relation to others, thereby judging ourselves successes and failures. But, knowing our weakness and mourning our own sins, we offer mercy to others knowing that we stand before God by His mercy alone.


And if that is so, how can be anything other than a peace-maker? Receiving mercy, we offer reconciliation in human conflicts and thereby demonstrate the reconciliation of God’s Gospel and our adoption as God’s children.


But, all of this does not lead to peace on earth; it is not the road to utopia. It is the road of the cross, where the righteousness of God is revealed, the light of hope shining in a lightless darkness. As citizens of God’s Kingdom, as Christ’s disciples, we discover that God’s righteousness doesn’t win us friends in this world, and we discover the hardest, deepest blessing of all, the blessing of persecution, where our lives enter into the reality of the life of the crucified Jesus.


Yet, there is no room for fear here. We follow our crucified Messiah to his cross and our lives and deaths mingle with his. And, having seen how his story ends, we await our own great reward.


“And all shall be well, and all shall be well,

and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Dame Julian of Norwich



*James 4:7-10 elaborates on this thought.


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