The Rev’d Penny Body
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Reflection 7th June 2021
The Gospel Matthew 5 verses 1 to 12
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Beatitudes are some of the most well-known and most quoted verses in the bible and some of them are easier to understand than others.
Sometimes the meaning of particular words can have different connotations for different times and places. I will always remember someone I worked with many years ago saying she really wasn’t sure about “all this meekiness” in the gospels – and how could that be a good thing. She was being light-hearted – but the trouble is the word meek can sometimes be seen as meaning someone is ineffective or subservient. Perhaps we might think more about it in terms of being filled with the humility that enables us to know that without God we can do nothing – but that with him nothing is impossible, as we reflected a couple of weeks ago with the story of the young ruler.
Another element of the meaning of being meek is to be balanced between being excessive angry and being anger-less – in other words to be angry at the right time and circumstance. So this might mean to be righteously angry on behalf of others when we see an injustice – but not angry on our own account at every slight that might come our way – an idea quite different from my colleague’s understanding of “meekiness”.
Then sometimes the beatitude can be hard to understand because it’s really difficult to see, for example, how being poor in spirit, or in mourning could be blessed. It can feel counter-intuitive.
For most of our lives it’s not always so easy to know our deep need of God – to rely on him for absolutely everything – to offer him our humble and complete obedience. And yet – one of the times we come close to that realisation is when we reach rock bottom – when we are in the most abject pain of loss or despair and feel abandoned, lost, and realise our utter helplessness in the face of such grief and trouble. And paradoxically it is that very realisation from the depths, that enables us to reach out and up to God – to put our full trust in him to help us.
There’s a prayer sometimes used at the beginning of the funeral service which I think helps with this understanding …
Heavenly Father – you have not made us for darkness and death but for life with you for ever. Without you we have nothing to hope for – with you we have nothing to fear. Speak to us now in your words of eternal life. Lift us from anxiety and guilt to the light and peace of your presence and set the glory of your love before us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
So blessed indeed are the poor in spirit – theirs is the kingdom of heaven – they know their need of God and theirs is the kingdom of heaven where thy will is done on earth as it is in heaven. And blessed are those who mourn – for they shall be comforted. They will know God.
There is so much written and talked about the Beatitudes – I wonder what they mean to you?
For me, I think they are about living in God – in so far as it is humanly possible to do so. They are about leaving behind not the self of our unique gifts of talents, understanding and personality that make us who we are in God – but the self of resentments, pride, fears and wants that have nothing to do with God.
And then, how blessed to be able to walk through the portal of leaving our lives behind only to miraculously and joyously find new life in him – life that we couldn’t even imagine before.
How blessed to be at one with God – to know his will and to be able to enact it. To be truly meek – to hunger and thirst for righteousness as God himself so hungers. To be peacemakers – to be merciful – as he is merciful.
Lord, however we do so, may we come to know our deep need for you – may we put our whole trust in you – may we be obedient to you – may we see your glory – and may we find our home in you. Amen.
The Collect for the First Sunday of Trinity
O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen