Archive for March, 2012

Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2012 by ancienthopes

The Beatitudes are full of surprises. We mentioned before that Jesus turns our whole world view upside down in the first four beatitudes where Jesus directly links our blessedness with poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, and hunger. As we progress in “going down” in humility we are actually “going up” “mount beatitude” to the summit of mercy (see last post). Spirituality is all counter-intuitive. Once on the summit, we make our way down the other side a changed person with pure heart, and becoming a peacemaker. One now would expect something positive to follow. Instead, we get another surprise: the very opposite of peace─persecution!

I think that many people believe that they are misunderstood and persecuted in this world. The assumption is that the world is out to get them. The persecution that Jesus is talking about has nothing to do with the troubles we bring upon ourselves because of our own lack of virtue and mismanagement of our lives. Rather, Jesus speaks of a persecution that comes as a direct result of a pure heart, and playing the role of peacemaker. True righteousness will always be rewarded in this world with persecution because the world is warped by sin. The world is always striving for peace, but a peace on its own terms, not God’s. God’s peace will always draw the world’s persecution. What a strange surprise!

We not only link persecution to the beatitudes immediately before it, but also beatitude # 2 across from it, “blessed are they that mourn” (again, see previous post). Because of the senseless persecution that comes upon those who are righteous, there cannot help but be mourning for the way things are in this world. However, in all of the confusion and sadness, the Spirit of Jesus brings a blessedness that is rooted far deeper in our souls than all the pain the world can serve us.

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Mount of Beatitudes: The Peacemakers

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 by ancienthopes

As I ponder the beatitudes, there seems to be a mountain-like structure to them. We begin with being poor in spirit at the base at one side, and we progress upward to mourning our sins and those of others, then we find that we can be meekened by God as we ascend yet further. Out of meekness comes deep spiritual hunger for righteousness, the next step up the mountain. At the top is mercy, the middle beatitude and therefore emphasized. Everything in the spiritual ascent turns on mercy! We need to embrace mercy ourselves so that we can be merciful to others. We then make our descent down the other side of Mount Beatitude a different person. I do not mean by “descent” something negative, but positive; we ascend up one side of the mountain to God, and descend down the other side empowered to make a difference in the world we live in. Seen this way, being pure in heart, the sixth beatitude which we discussed in the previous entry, corresponds to the forth beatitude of hungering and thirsting. In fact, becoming pure in hear is the direct result of spiritual hunger and thirsting.

Mount Beatitude

5. Mercy

4. Hunger 6. Pure in Heart

3. Meek 7. Peace Maker

2. Mourn 8. Persecuted

1. Poor in Spirit 9. Thought of as Evil

We find that our beatitude for today is “Blessed are the Peace Makers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Meekness, beatitude #3 in the ascent, is directly linked to peacemaking, beatitude # 7 on the descent. One must be meek to bring peace in this world, but must first climb through hunger, pass over the peak of mercy, and attain a pure heart. We all want peace and perhaps we think of ourselves as peaceful people by nature, but in reality peace comes very hard. I find that most people, including myself, go about gravely unaware of the violence in our souls. To attain the title “sons of God” is grand indeed. To bring peace is most God-like, and brings a rare joy to the soul!

Any thoughts on this?

Blessed are the Pure in Heart for they shall see God.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2012 by ancienthopes

Purity of heart, and seeing God, are grand old themes in the Bible. Even coupling them as Jesus does here is not new, for we find in Psalm 24:3-4 that the pure in heart alone have the ability to “ascend the mountain of the Lord” which implies “seeing” God. Moses is the premiere example of this in Ex. 33 where he makes the ultimate request, “Show me your glory!” The response is ambiguous, for “no man can see God and live,” but on the other hand, Moses saw more of God than anyone else did, and this vision made him different from all others. In the Hebrew mind, not only do we become what we eat, but we are/become what we see.

Purity of heart opens the interior eyes of our souls so that we “see” Jesus. Our interior eyes work together with our physical eyes so that we see Jesus in so many ways through the world around us; in the faces of other people, in nature, and in many diverse places where others cannot see the One in whom “all things consist” (Col. 1:18). But for all of us in this life these are just glimpses, momentary flashes, because the impurities that still linger in our hearts impede our sight. Indeed, to see God fully, face to face, would destroy us, for mortal flesh cannot see God. However, the more pure we become, the more we see, and the more we see, the more we become like Jesus. The spiritual life is one of spiraling upward. This is why purity of soul is the apex of Christian virtue in the world of Christian mysticism, because it brings on the beatific vision.

What verse is more wonderful than St. John’s encouragement in I John 3:2 “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it is not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (NKJV). We become what we see, and we see when we are purified from that which clings to us from the world. This is another plug for a good Lenten observance. We are not speaking of “works righteousness” here. We are speaking about God’s invitation to purify our hearts through His grace, motivated purely by love, so that we can see Him! Jesus wants to be seen!

Blessed are the merciful

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6, 2012 by ancienthopes

There are nine beatitudes and this fifth one is in the middle. Usually in Scripture, the middle holds a special place. I often wondered why mercy is at the heart of the beatitudes. For myself, I would place “pure of heart” at the center. I can only conclude that there is something very special about mercy.

I think most of us think that we are merciful persons, and perhaps we are, at least to some degree. However, we all tend to live on the surface of things. I know that I do. We only get glimpses of what is really down there below the surface when someone “pushes our buttons,” so to speak. When this happens, hitherto unknown (or conveniently forgotten) violent thoughts and demands for justice emerges from our depths. Most of the time this takes the form of angry thoughts or words. We punish by our attitudes; it can be very subtle. What is very scary is that given the right circumstances, such as desperate conditions where our very survival is at stake, what is subtle in us in our comparatively peaceful and cultured situation can open up to monstrous proportions.

Perhaps this is why mercy is listed after the first four beatitudes. Jesus is telling us that mercy just doesn’t “happen” with us. We have to come to grips with our poverty of spirit, mourn, grow in meekness, and hunger before we can really be merciful. Maybe mercy is rarer among us than we think? In the end, just to be merciful and to obtain God’s mercy is a HUGE deal! What do you think? Why do you think mercy is at the heart of the beatitudes?