When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
All Saints Sunday always gets me thinking about my grandmother, my Memaw as we call them down here in the South. She was a simple woman who grew up in North Carolina and married a soldier. Settled in Columbus, Ga to be near Ft. Benning in their retirement. My Memaw wasn’t a highly educated woman, but she was smart. She had great sayings like, “You can’t fix stupid.” And my favorite, “There’s nothing worse than pretentiousness…but there is nothing better than well done pretentiousness.” A collection of homespun wisdom and keen observation. A woman of deep faith.
The Beatitudes are a reflection of a deep faith and they draw our attention to the Saints of God today. Saints are not perfect, you know that, but they made a deep and profound impact on our lives and in our world. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa to be a Saint. You can just be Memaw. The key is, do you live the kind of faith reflected in the Beatitudes?
Charles James Cook, who is Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology, Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, Texas, shares a unique way of looking at the Beatitudes.
We might find them more helpful if we looked at them as a whole, instead of individually. Those who are meek for example, meaning humble, are more likely to hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they remain open to continued knowledge of God. In this way, they become much more practical for our lives. Professor Cook goes on to say there are three simple rules for living found in the Beatitudes – simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion. If I look at them from this perspective, I can see that my grandmother and so many other Saints who have gone before us lived these Beatitudes…and now I know we can too.
Simplicity is not a lack of sophistication. It is rather hearing the words, seeing the truth as it is and heeding it. Take things for what they are, not as we want them to be. If we can hear these words of Jesus as simple words, “Blessed are you when you demonstrate humility, bring a peaceful presence to wherever you are, open your heart to others, and show mercy to those who need it. Those are not sophisticated, hard to accomplish Beatitudes. They are simple rules for living. Saints live simple lives.
Hopefulness. We can certainly agree there is not enough hope in the world. I fall into the trap of becoming overly cynical about things in life and cynicism is not good. Cynicism decides to just accept whatever is and offer no hope that it will get better. I see that in me from time to time and I don’t want that to be who I am! Beatitudes invite us to hopefulness because Jesus lived in hope. We must live and work with the surety that mercy, humility, peace, and love are possible in our lives. Saints live hopeful lives.
Compassion is not just pity or sympathy. Pity feels sorry. Sympathy is understanding and offering advice. Compassion is when you recognize that those around you share your humanity! We are not separate – we are one! Compassion is not walking the same path, but carrying them – walking in their shoes. Saints live compassionate lives.
These Saints today were stewards of the gifts they were given. They weren’t perfect, no Saint is. But they reveal to us the connection we share with God and with one another. We are called to be a light to the world. We are called to live the Beatitudes as real and practical rules for life. We are called to be the Saints of God.