Since I was a child, the Beatitudes spoke to me of a world of welsome, where the broken-hearted and the hurt had places of honor. To me, the prose wound around the image of Jesus calling the little children to come to him. There was a heady nobility in the burdens carried, and a strength and honor in accepting the hand that had been dealt. Even more than that, there was dignity riding the waves of indignation that sweep through life. But today, in a church full of families and elderly couples, the passage encompassed even more. For the first time, I wondered if the Beatitudes are rally, simply, about what it means to be human, if Jesus was offering to all of us and each of us a real truth: life is hard, but each of us and all of us are blessed nevertheless.
The Gospel of Luke is unsparing in this:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.”
Luke talks about the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated. Who among us has not known those expereinces, those moments, such as they are? Who has not see others living those moments? And here, Luke invites us to conisder that even all that is part of what it means to be human. Being fully human and fully alive means expereincing all that and knowing physically, emotionally and socially how very difficult and challening it is to be a human creature. No facet of it is easy, actually.
Luke goes on toe excoriate the allusions that distract and deceive and delude human beings. Wealth and status are comforting agents, but they can buffer brokenness in ways that empower us to deny the rich depth of human capacity for empathy, courage, resilience, generosity and hope, even trust. With the startling simplicity that only an evangelist can communicate, Luke’s Beatitudes are inviting us to consider all the layers of what it means to be human. Most of all, he is reassuring about what it means to be alive and to becoming more alive in every human experience.
The Beatitudes are the graceful reminder that life is hard and being human is a challenge as well. But they are also the summons to realize that each of us, as we journey, learn that those very rigorous experiences empower us to empathy, discourage us from judgment and dare us to become kinder human beings. And every step in that direction draws us to what Teresa of Avila proclaimed: “We are the Hands and Heart of Christ.”