Fourth Sunday After The Epiphany | Matthew 5:1-12
It is difficult to find a passage of scripture more famous than the Sermon on the Mount, and within this passage it is hard to find verses more well known than the beatitudes, the blessings.
In Matthew’s telling (Luke differs), Jesus spoke eight blessings, or nine if you view the two mentions of the persecuted as separate. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, and those who are persecuted for righteousness. Also blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.
Five of the blessed appear weak or downtrodden. In the midst of these five, Jesus offers three who appear strong and outgoing—the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. Are these three offered as contrasts to the other five? Or does Jesus consider all of the eight to be strong in the spirit?
Whatever Jesus considers them, these eight groups get what they desire. Because their hearts are centered in the good, they receive the good.
They get it.
As I write, a winter storm is passing, leaving the ground covered in ice and snow. The night sky is low and the wind is cold, ice flakes filling the air. Strangely, a seagull has landed (crashed?) in my yard. It lingers, chattering, before once more taking flight. Surely it is hungry, and poor, mourning the night and the ice and the cold, feeling persecuted by the weather. I doubt it deems itself blessed. It likely thought that the ground was not where it should be, but that moment of rest was what it needed to continue through the storm.
Blessed are the poor in spirit and the mournful—they recognize their neediness. Blessed are the merciful and the pure—they recognize need, and the good, in others. All of the blessed ones share the honesty to know what they are lacking, what God is waiting to provide.
Somewhere in the darkness, a seagull is still flying with ice on its wings.