Yours is the Kingdom

Alongside the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes provide a startling and sometimes unsettling contrast. The former lists a series of succinct guidelines for life, the first three being proactive and the rest prohibitions. All apply to individual choices and behaviors which heartily impact the lives of others and so the whole community. Adherence to them allows for a society, a community, to determine just how to manage the mystery of being human. The Beatitudes, on the other hand, have a nearly lyrical tone with an invitation to find within ourselves deep personal empathy, kindness and compassion in looking at self and others.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

As a child, the Beatitudes reminded me that there are heroes everywhere; hidden within blankets of anonymity, they are neither visible and often unappreciated. They are the frantic parents, the Amazon drivers and the cashiers at Kohl’s, the cleaning ladies and the maintenance people, baristas and bus drivers. The Beatitudes taught me that everyone walks a long hard road, and there is more to everyone than I can see. I learned that God embraces each person, most especially those invisible to me. My own misgivings or judgements of others pale in the face of a truth that a generous and gentle God guarantees so much more than what the world can provide. As I grew old with the words, they became so much more.

Decades of seeing and hearing these words from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5 taught me how challenging and humbling they actually are. They hold a mirror to the breath of human life, and a promise that there is a “more” to what the ordinary days of human lives bring. They intimate that life holds circumstances far beyond human control; suffering is simply part of life. Tragedy, brokenness, weakness need not divorce us from a relationship with God. These words suggest that it is in those very moments that God holds us close, closer than ever. And even more, they whisper of what we are humans are capable of: we can dare to choose goodness, to seek the right, to build peace and we can make mistakes, fail and try again. So much of it is about what we can be within the wonder of who we are and what is happening. In so many ways, these words invite us to look at ourselves and one another with fresh eyes and an openness that defies the smallness of which we are all so capable.

In that light, “rejoice and be glad” takes on a whole new meaning. And from David Hass’ “Blest Are They”, “Rejoice and be glad. Blessed are you, holy are you! Rejoice and be glad, Yours is the kingdom of God.” Yours is the kingdom. Imagine that.

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