Can politicians live the Beatitudes? I asked this question of a few people this week. One person said that maybe a few politicians could live them. Another person simply said to me that it was a good question and still another person said, “Absolutely not.” Her answer had a definitive tone to it. The real question we need to ask is, “Are we able to live the Beatitudes?” If we knew the world would come to an end on Tuesday, January 31st, all of us and politicians included could live the Beatitudes.
What was Jesus’ intent when He gave us the Beatitudes? We must put them in the context in which Jesus delivered them in order to understand them. Besides the disciples, the crowd also gathered around Him to listen to His teaching. Matthew described the crowd with these words, “They brought to Him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics (Matt. 4:24).” These are all the broken people who were marginalized by their society that Jesus was speaking to on the mountain. It is the background for understanding the Beatitudes. The first eight of the Beatitudes are in the third person. It is only the last one that is in the second person, “Blessed are you when they insult you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me (Matthew 5:11).” Was Jesus describing what He saw in the crowd that gathered to be healed? Echoed in the Beatitudes is the first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah—the humble of the earth, the keepers of the law, the seekers of justice and humility who become the faithful remnant of God.
An ancient Chinese philosopher once said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” This is what the Beatitudes are inviting us to do—let go of what we are so that we become what we might be. Jesus knew we human beings have the capacity to embrace the teachings of the Beatitudes otherwise He would not have given them to us. He knew our human nature is flawed and imperfect but He also knew we have the capacity for breaking the cycle of violence. The Beatitudes puts forth a life-style that breaks this cycle. It is only when we let go of what we are, what we think we are, that we are free to embrace what is most profound about being human. These words of Jesus invite us to the fullness of who we can become in our humanity. Jesus knew that we are built for forgiveness. We are built to be compassionate. We are built not for violence. We are built for love in the long-term. The Beatitudes open us to what we were built for and what we are capable of living in our relationship with others.
The fullness of who we can become is found in the emptiness of what we think we are.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,