Throughout my life, the Beatitudes captured the essence of what life is all about. I loved the suggestion the word be written as “Be- attitudes” and the idea that life is all about perspectives and positivity. But today, in a church of masked adults and playful children, Luke’s version struck me entirely differently. It struck me for the first time that perhaps the prose that winds through each line is really stripping bare the reality of what it means to be human. Life is hard and presents agonies untold, and sometimes it seems the wealthy and blessed are spared that experience.
Luke’s version, though, portrays the temporality of what looks like success and “the good life”. It is in the preface to that where the evangelist captures the heart of human days…”Blessed are the poor…the ones who are hungry…the ones who are weeping…Blessed are you when people hate you…”. The truth is that is where we live; it is the wanting and needs and the sorrows that visit all of us and each of us. And in spite of that, because of that, each of us is blessed, alive and beloved. That preface actually invites us each to be fully human, to know what it is to be looked down upon, what it is to suffer losses and grief, what it is to want. Those are the bottom lines and it taps into the physical and emotional aspects of what it is to be human. But there is that excoriating piece reminding each of us of the pitfalls of humanity: the allusions and delusions of wealth, the cruelties we are capable of inflicting on others as we celebrate wealth and status, even the way we pursue and embrace the esteem of others. All of that reminds us of the paths we choose as human beings.
Today, Luke proclaimed that our humanity itself is beloved by God, and it is ours to realize that and then share it with one another. Life is terribly hard; in discovering that within, we have the capacity to allow more freedom to others, more recognition, greater validity. Judgment has no place in the message, and deserves no place in interaction. Instead, the recognition that we are who we are can generate an empathy that suspends criticism and offers warmth and understanding born of experience. Life’s challenges abound; choices are made and consequences felt. But the truth is that even those cannot deny the sense that as human beings, creatures, each of us is precious. Above all, the Beatitudes invite is to be the humans we are and to trust that the worst cannot destroy the best of us. The Beatitudes might really be about daring to really be the humans we are!