Matthew 5:1-10 - Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus traveled to many towns and cities as his ministry evolved, preaching to those who came to hear him and healing many who were sick.
One day, Jesus decided to go up a mountain along with the disciples and teach them by offering a series of lessons, later known as the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon described the whole spectrum of life in the kingdom, mentioning the poor and the meek, those who are mourning or hungry, those who are pure in heart or merciful, the peacemakers and the persecuted.
Why Are Those Who Suffer Blessed?
I've always wondered why the word "blessed' was paired with each of these conditions. Why are those who are hungry and persecuted blessed? Why are those who mourn blessed? Usually I associate the word, "blessing" or "blessed" with a gift bestowed by God. Why would mourning or being hungry or persecuted be gifts from God? These passages seem to be a contradiction.
I spent some time studying the word "blessed" and reading about the interpretation and meaning of these passages. "Blessed" means divinely favored and receiving from God.
Those who are grieving, hungry and persecuted are blessed because they are not alone. God is with them. Being blessed means that when suffering happens, we can be open to receive God's presence, love, hope, strength and encouragement to help get through difficult days.
In my reflection with this passage, I focused on verse four, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Loss was heavy on my mind and familiar to my heart. I carry loss from my past. I was also mindful for the 10 people I have know who died since August, 2017, some of whom were close friends, others parents of friends, while others were acquaintances.
I received a thank you note from the mother of one of Anna's friends, who died after an eight month battle with cancer. Anna and I made a donation to his place of employment. At the end of the note she said, "Life is hard, God is good."
She was stating a beatitude about mourning in reverse. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Her comment could be reordered to say, "God is good, but life is hard," to reflect the language of the beatitude.
By saying, "God is good," she is opening herself to the vast experience of God's presence, mercy, love, compassion, and comfort in the midst of heartbreak and tremendous grief, that indeed, makes life hard.
God Is With Us
When difficult times come our way, being blessed may not be our first thought. However, knowing that "blessed" means that God is with us, we do not have to go through our days alone, for all that God offers is available. God welcomes us into his presence.
Questions for Reflection
1. What does blessed mean to you?
2. When you have experienced grief, hunger or persecution do you feel blessed?
3. How has God helped you through rough times with the assurance you are not alone, but blessed?
Prayer: God, sometimes you speak in ways that seem confusing. When we explore your language we have new ways of understanding your nature and what life in you can offer. Keep us always anchored in you for all life brings our way. Amen.