The Beatitudes are blessings, not laws
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – St. Matthew 5:1-12
Sunday past, we celebrated All Saints Day. The festival of All Saints goes back to the year 609. It was first celebrated on May 13, to commemorate martyrs who had died for the faith. Later, the date was changed to November 1, by Pope Gregory 1V and expanded to include the whole church, or all of the faithful who had died in the faith.
The text for All Saints Day comes from the Beatitudes, which some scholars see as a group of laws. They suggest that one has to achieve these teachings of Jesus in order to become a Christian. However, this is not so. If one had to achieve such standards, then Christianity will elude most of us.
These are not laws, but blessings. Jesus pronounces these blessings to his disciples and to all who trust in him as their Lord and savior. He proclaims that those who follow him will look like the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek – yet not weak, hungry and thirsting after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness.
Jesus began his ministry by teaching and preaching the good news to the people declaring that the kingdom of God has come near to them. The text says when he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain and sat down. There he preached his famous Sermon on the Mount.
This sermon includes the Beatitudes or blessings. Some translate Beatitudes as happiness. However, in terms of the happiness, we know these are much more. When Jesus declared blessing to his disciples, he was talking about the inner joy and peace that comes with being right with God.
What do the Beatitudes communicate to you? To me? In our country, where for the most part, we live the good life, do we find it difficult to see ourselves as poor in spirit and mourning? Do we hunger and thirst for success, recognition, and affluence rather than righteousness? Do we associate meekness with weakness, mercy with soft heartedness, and purity with naivety? If so, then Jesus’ words simply slide by our ears.
As disciples of Jesus, we acknowledge that we are poor in spirit. We do mourn our sin and welcome Jesus as the meek one who humbled himself and became obedient unto death. We hunger and we thirst for his righteousness. And as recipients of his mercy, we are made pure by his purity, we desire to show mercy, live as peacemakers and endure persecution for the sake of his righteousness. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: email@example.com; website: www.Nassaulutheranchurch.org.