The Beatitudes, like the Ten Commandments, are boundaries that define us as children, inheritors of God’s will and blessing. We have been created to be disciplined, so to strive for freedom of excellence. Those who are disciplined to practice and train for hours have the freedom, are blessed, to play the violin, guitar, or a French horn. I still possess the same guitar my father gave me when I was seven. I can pick it up and play some notes, but because of my lack of discipline in practicing daily, I do not have the freedom nor am I able to experience the joy my father does when he plays his guitar.
This holds true for any endeavor in the arts, sports, business, family, or our spiritual life. We become truly happy and we are blessed by God when we actualize and develop the gifts he has given us through our practice and discipline. Over time, with continued collaboration with God, we will experience the freedom to put these gifts into action.
The Beatitudes that Jesus presents to us today as recorded by Matthew in his Gospel offer us opportunities to experience meaning, fulfillment, and joy. Each of them is worthy of a reflection in their own right, but for today, let us look at the fourth Beatitude which is appropriate in our present climate.
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” The righteousness Jesus is referring to here is the justice of God. In the fullness of time, God will make all things right. We will most likely not see the full measure of justice for all people in our lifetime this side of heaven. Yet, with so much injustice all around us, we are not to just put our heads in the sand and do nothing. We are to follow the hunger and thirst God stirs up within us to discipline ourselves and work for justice.
We begin by moving toward those issues that bring us to tears and move our hearts with compassion. Whose cry do we hear? Do we hear the unborn whose parents choose to end their life before they are born, those unarmed African Americans and people of color killed by police officers? Do we weep over the increasing epidemic of missing and murdered Native American and Alaskan women, people fleeing war and violence that have been denied entry into our country or worse separated from their families? Are we aghast when we hear about those dying from mass shootings and gun violence, the exponential number of our youth that are dying from addiction, and the vast number of people who die because of lack of access to adequate health care?
To me what is the most horrific of the above mentioned, as well as the many more that I didn’t, is that each of the above has become, but ought not to be, politicized. Precious human beings continue to die because too many of us do not make the effort to see the issue from the point of view of those who are losing their lives. Each is a human dignity issue. To attempt to rationalize or justify any one issue weakens a consistent ethic of the dignity of all life. We begin to bring about change by becoming aware, educating ourselves, coming to understand the plight of, and build relationships with those whose cries we hear. We pray for God’s guidance and we act to bring about systematic change that protects the lives of those we feel most called to help as well as not hindering but supporting those seeking to answer the cries of others. Even if in answering the thirst and hunger that arises in our hearts saves one life, we can experience some satisfaction and build from there.
Photo: @socialworktutor Helps to explain those who misunderstand the purpose of the phrase Black Lives Matter. The sign reads: We said – Black Lives Matter – Never Said – Only Black Lives Matter – We Know – All lives matter – We just need your help with #BlackLivesMatter for black lives are in danger. Being willing to understand another’s point of view is an important first step.