There are a few famous speeches attributed to Jesus, none more famous and more universally acclaimed than what is known as The Beatitudes or Sermon on the Mount. In the Christian Bible, it can be found at Matthew 5: 1-11.
Instead of going to a hillside to share the good news of the riches of being blessed by trouble, toil and strife, a modern day Messiah might get his or her sayings in bite sided tweeable grabs. Millions can be reached and within hours the planet could be showered with the messages. What kind of be – attitudes are we seeking in our times? How are we being challenged to be- have?
Poverty of spirit is all around us, loneliness, fear, anxiety, lack of eye contact and whole-heartedness manifests itself in shallow souls and mean-ness. These are the ones to be filled with riches and bounty to be found in the home of love. How might they find their way to this home? I certainly want to shower blessings on those who have this poverty and give them a glimpse of the love they are seeking and in all honesty I think this starts with the simplicity of a smile.
For those who are mourning, and grief too is all around us. People losing their jobs, their ambitions, their homes, their lives and their loves. Seeking comfort in the arms of another, and being comforted in real material ways with the basics of food and shelter when there that immediate need is there. I think of the front line workers in disasters and after emergencies as well as those who sit on the bus and hear a tale of sorrow and loss, or open their Facebook feed in the morning to the arrival of news of death or illness to a friend, or friend of a friend. For the ripples of grief go out beyond the first circle, and our own mortality comes palpable with that kind of news. We gather up our connection and touch deep into our selves with that kind of news. Our times of mourning apprentice us to be comforters in times of grief for others.
The simple and unsophisticated, the meek and mild, are often ripe for predators of pain and purveyors of oppression. Those who loose all they have with scams, on the pokies might be taken advantage of by the ease by which they submit to the aggressive and relentlessness of callers and machines that drive the meek into submission. They are the children who end up as victims, the women who have the scars inside and out – meekness comes in many forms. The gentle and the patient ones wait and wait as if they know tomorrow is an act of hope, a maybe things will be better day to come. In a world which is complicated and moving at a pace few can keep up with being meek is a curse and no wonder will need to be blessed.
The work of justice is long and suffering, it is never finished. The poor will always be with us. There are disappointments around every corner, some that lead you to deep and dark despair. Years of campaigning, lobbying, building a movement, sustaining your longing for what is right, fair, equitable can be exhausting. Having a heart full of love, a head full of ideas and a body equipped to go the frontline for what is morally right is a big ask on the days refugees aren’t offered shelter in our land, or Aboriginal children are displaced in their own land or decisions to make our state a nuclear dump are pending. A blessing to be satisfied when you have an insatiable thirst for righteousness is the one you need on a bad day.
Those that have forgiven know the blessing that comes in that act. The sense of a return to centre and a completion of what it means to be whole. Coming from the french – merci – is thank you, a yes to the transaction of something being delivered to you, arriving and now with your consent, received. The giver is dispensing the mercy first, before they have the experience of receiving. This is a blind trust with no guarantee of reciprocation. Haven’t we all had that moment of our gift being dismissed and times of betrayal? To keep giving in a vacuum is an act of trust for when you need to have mercy shown to you there will be enough mercy credits in your mercy bank to receive the mercy due -but maybe better still though to just receive and hold that space of welcome and blessed acceptance.
To have an innocence and to be without blemish is to be like a little child seeing everything for what it is without cynicism or spin. Only with those eyes is it possible to see all of creation in its purest form. How hard it is to ignore the hole in the ozone layer, the price of fabric made in sweat shops, the children being refused an education, the old ones being left behind in their last days. The blessing of clarity, of being untainted by the world so you can see the fullest and biggest versions and possibilities of God.
A friend, Fr John Dear says that when you are in the peace business you travel with others, it is a small group, and destined to get smaller! He laughs when he says this each time and the chuckle comes from experience. His activism has led him to gaol, loss of family and friends and of his community of religious sojourners. He is not alone and he definitely feels like he has all the love and support he needs from the one he call Father. Not everyone in his band of merry men and women share his faith or draw from the same well – it doesn’t matter – all that matters is the peace making. This is a discipline, a practice, it is what comes first, to do the work consistently and with joy that brings a blessing of deep knowledge of our inter-connectedness to each other in the quest for justice, as there can be no peace without justice.
It is virtually inevitable that hostility and ill treatment will come with the practice of sticking up for what is right. The reserves needed to sustain yourself in times of persecution need topping up regularly as they run low when you are being relentlessly flogged, and you find yourself deserted. I remember speaking out once thinking I had a room full of ordained clergy right behind me and then turning around to see several of the most influential having literally stepped right back and feeling so vulnerable. Everyday, all around the world, whole countries step back instead of stepping up, meaning those who are persecuted in their efforts for justice and dignity are left to fend for themselves. To be blessed under these circumstances by the kingdom of heaven need not be placating metaphor of a promise of a better world in the next, but maybe an invitation for those of us not persecuted, to bless them in this world with the fruits of the good times we have. Could it be an invitation to us to share in our blessings do that they are blessed?
The last of the be-attitudes is the blessing that comes when you are falsely accused because you stand with goodness and love personified. The old saying sticks and stones may break your bones but names may never hurt you is easy to recite and hard to believe in those moments when the jibs and jabs hail down like spears in battle. To dance with joy as you dodge those bullets, does bring its own blessings and strength as we see in the likes of people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu who still managed a skip and a smile when his Cathedral was being targeted and bullets were being fired because of his stand on apartheid due to his belief in his God. Or the courageous and initially reluctant Archbishop Oscar Romero who made the air waves of El Salvador his microphone for Christ and met his God in his church saying Mass on a fateful day in March 1980. His people knew he was a saint long before he was recognised by the Vatican.
To bless and be blessed that is what it means to live with a be-attitude.