All Saints 2023 Revelation 7:9-17, Psalm 34:1-10,22, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5: 1-12
In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.
Blessed and becoming Fully Human. The saints through the ages have read their Bible with devotion and lived by it as best they could in their time as we do also. With God’s grace we find our way through the various distortions and misconceptions that confront all of us and the variety of saintly lives is testimony to the incarnational nature of God’s grace. What is essential about sainthood is being fully human, unique and eternal and learning to be creature and not creator. It is to realise that God is the only one who can enable us to become fully human in this world. Our purpose is to be and to live as God’s creature. Today’s reading in Matthew’s gospel indicates a variety of ways in which one grows as a human being, becoming blessed.
If you were raised in a Christian home, it is likely that you are familiar with the Beatitudes. They are one of the texts that children were taught to memorise along with the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 and the Ten Commandments. These teachings of Jesus are called Beatitudes because they all begin with “Blessed are… “and are the most straightforward and unified teachings of Jesus. So let us consider them carefully.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poor in spirit here indicates an inner attitude of being receptive and open, not full of oneself and one can be blessed because only in this state is it possible to receive anything. Thomas Merton, the contemporary Christian mystic once wrote. “At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God…” It is through this point of nothingness that we can receive the teaching of wisdom and if we are full of ourselves, we can go no further.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. To mourn is to truly be vulnerable, with our heart reaching out towards what we have lost and cannot stop loving. Real love is painful, and all of us experience at some time or other the pain of loving. We can trust that joy is at the heart of pain, even when the pain is overwhelming, especially when there is nothing we can do for those we love. This is not complaining or self-pitying loss. Mourning is painful emptiness through which we discover the mystery of comfort, the substance of divine compassion and it is usually through heartbreaking tears.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Meek in modern language indicates a nature that is a quiet and easily imposed on, submissive and unwilling to disagree or fight to support personal ideas. But here it is not what is meant. To be meek, one is more likely to be humble and show patience and gentleness realising that one is God’s creature and as such is more likely to inherit the earth rather than destroying it.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. This is not about doing virtuous deeds. To experience the righteousness of God is to experience the full force of God’s holiness and to be anchored in God’s mysterious life. It is a fierce and unchangeable bond with an intense connectedness. As we are being transformed by following Christ, our most valuable tool is our hunger and thirst, our yearning for God’s aliveness. And it will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. We give mercy and we receive mercy. Mercy comes from an old Etruscan word “merc” which gives us the word “merchant”. It is all about exchange. We often pray “Lord have mercy”, but mercy in this instance is not what God has, it is what God is. We are invited to trust God’s mercy, understanding that in God’s mercy there is no separation from God’s grace.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Again, our modern understanding of language leads us to distort the meaning of this teaching. We would better understand this Beatitude if it were read as; “Blessed are those whose heart is not divided.” When our heart desires only to live aligned with the yearning for the righteousness of God, that it becomes single minded, then we see as God sees.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. When we are humble, gentle, and patient, showing mercy and singleness of heart we will have peace within us. From our inner peace will flow peace to others as harmony and compassion. Here we have the now and the not yet, peacemakers now and later named. This is part of our transformation and journey as children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This is not about martyrdom but about freedom. This is what the Christian journey is all about. As we learn to let go and entrust ourselves to God’s divine mercy, anything that shakes us out of our comfort zone can become a great teaching tool if we have the courage to be taught.
In the Beatitudes Jesus is teaching a radical transformation of consciousness, an inner receptivity and a willingness to enter the mystery of life with God. It is a commitment to be open, to absorb it, and abide with it, and live in it, now and in the future. It is a process of being, and becoming and helps us to understand our humanness and to be holy in the presence of our Creator and Holy God.
Each life is unique and part of being a human creature is that each of us is uniquely conscious of the inevitability of death, and the death of every other living thing. To accept this is to completely accept being a creature and to place our trust fully in the Creator. This then, is the journey of life and entry into life eternal. Our growth into the fullness of humanity which is to be in the image and likeness of God will continue into eternity. Where according to the story in Revelation, we will find ourselves delightfully shouting with a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, while the angels worship God and sing.
Some concepts from “The Wisdom Jesus” – Cynthia Bourgeault ISBN 978-1-59030-580-5
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF