The beatitudes stir various reactions. “Too humiliating (meaning embarrassing)” remarks one of my confreres, “intimidating” says another. The “formula for Christian living” says the American Bishops, and countless others before them. “The perfect description of our Lord” (poor, meek, humble, etc) explain some, “and ourselves” others would add.
The gospel most read at funerals, it is odd, ironic, fitting to hear the beatitudes on the feast of all saints. All saints day, or the feast of all hollows (holy people) started in the fourth century to celebrate Christian martyrs – exemplary followers of the crucified messiah – so they believed. Gradually, with the evolution of our definition of holiness, all saints day grew to include non-martyrs, and eventually (with greater reflection on scripture), I would argue, the entire people of God.
While there remains some debate on this issue, about who this day really celebrates, one Saint Paul says unequivocally that each and every baptised person is and is called to be a saint. Holy people, the communion of saints is the graced filled church, those baptised and set free to become that which we are and are not – like him – one with He who is one with us.
As Christians, we live with the tension of being both now and not yet. We know that we can always do better and that although we are already poor, meek, and humble of heart we can always become yet more united to our saviour Jesus Christ. And we have the grace to it.
In Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech in 1994, he spoke to the people of South Africa about God’s grace, the fine line between fear and power, and what it does to us.
For our sake, I will add “as Christians”
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
As children of God, the communion of saints, we have light to shine. The light God give to us is hope. Hope in what we have, and hope in what is to come. As John’s Epistles states: ‘we are God’s children now, what we will become is not yet revealed but we do know is this: that we will become like him.’ (3.2)
Christ our Lord was the only perfect human being. He lived and breathed the beatitudes in ways that we never will, but he did it with us. As God’s holy people we have the grace of a God walks with us so that we can walk with him.
May we not be embarrassed or intimidated by what he does, but rise up and in pride (hope) as we are, to have been included in his love. May the holy baptised radiate God’s glory revealed in Christ and ourselves - poor, meek, and humble of heart.