Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mike: The Second Beatitude

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matt. 5:4) (NRSV)

The beatitudes turn normal expectations upside down. Where's the blessing or happiness in mourning? The longer I ponder the beatitude, the more I find the following elements in play.

The Pain and Promise of Awakening--Jesus called would-be followers to die to the life they had known and awaken into a new kind of life. Dying to any kind of life is not easy. It hurts. Just as importantly, when we wake to the new life, we may well mourn our past sin, misperceptions, and even wasted time. Yet all such mourning, though necessary, is a prelude to joy, the kind of joy that comes from knowing you're fully alive as never before, alive to God, others and even self.

Enhanced Sensitivity to the Pain of the World--The new life, though, comes with a price: vastly increasing and growing sensitivity to the pain of the world. The old life is self-centered, the new life is centered in God. Only, much to our surprise, we soon find that being centered in God forces us to look outward and see all others are immediate family. This can be frightening to introverts, to those who have lived in insular communities, and to those who hitherto have been able to treat others as objects. Now when others hurt from hunger, catastrophes, illness, or human meanness, we hurt with them. We mourn our past isolation a bit. Even more, we mourn the plight of those we now know to be brothers and sisters.

The Promise of Participation in the Life of God--Jesus promises "comfort." His version of "comfort," though, may sound a bit strange. He offers the comfort of participating in the life of God, that is of joining God in the work of releasing the captives, helping the blind to see, and the like. Comfort comes as we find (or rediscover)our place alongside God, take up the kind of tasks for which he created us, and invest ourselves in fashioning a life and a society in which self-giving love is the lead virtue.

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