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4th OT A ~ "Blessed" ~ Susan McGurgan


On a small windswept hill

overlooking the Sea of Galilee,

stands a lovely gray and white chapel.


Built in 1938, the Church of the Beatitudes is light and airy—

an elegant octagonal building

with colonnaded cloisters that catch every passing breeze.



Within view is the town of Capernaum,

where Jesus made his home,

and the field where he may have

preached the Parable of the Sower.


The Chapel commemorates a key moment

in the life and ministry of Jesus—

the day when a crowd gathered on a hillside

and Jesus began to teach them

what it means to be blessed of God.


Today, even when filled with busloads of tourists,

the chapel stands calm and serene;

beautiful—

but somewhat at odds

with the message it celebrates.

In the peace of this space,

it can be easy to forget

that Jesus's words on that hillside

were anthing but soothing—

and far from serene.


His words were, in fact,

shocking.

Demanding.

Disturbing.

Paradoxical.

Revolutionary.

Hard to understand.

Hard to accept and even harder to live

because they go against

everything

we think we "know" about success and failure;

winning and losing,

blessing and curse.


With these words,

Jesus called Israel to a new way of being;

a new way of seeing,

inviting them to view the world through God's eyes.


“Blessed are those who are poor in spirit,”

Jesus preached that day.

Blessed poor?


He went on.

Blessed Mourners.

Blessed Hungry.

Blessed Persecuted.

Blessed Pure.

Blessed Meek.


His words were as jarring to first century Judeans

as they should be to us.

And if we do not feel their jagged edge,

prodding us—

cutting us,

just a little,

then perhaps we are not really listening.


His words are contrary to popular wisdom;

contrary to practical experience;

contrary to our gut instincts for survival.

But there they are—

The Beatitudes —

declarative and unequivocal statements

about God’s grace and blessing.


Blessed poor.

Blessed mourners.

Blessed hungry.

Blessed persecuted.

Blessed pure.

Blessed merciful.

Blessed meek.


In an world that worships wealth, Jesus says,

“Blessed are those who have nothing.”


In a culture that compulsively denies pain,

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have the courage

to love so deeply, that they mourn its loss.”


In a society that rewards bullies and oppressors,

Jesus calls those who bear the agony of persecution, “Blessed.”


In a world engorged on the profits of war;

a world enamored of warriors,

Jesus raises up peacemakers

and calls them blessed.


In a culture that often mocks goodness,

Jesus blesses the pure.


Among people who celebrate ego and power,

Jesus blesses the meek.


The Beatitudes are more than an abstract lesson of faith—

they are a blueprint for action;

an invitation to see the world through a different lens.

They invite us to share in God’s vision,

which is infinitely broader

and deeper

and far more challenging than our own.


The Beatitudes re-focus our eyes

on people and places that others might miss,

and remind us that the way things are today

are not the way things have to be.


They remind us that the world of rich and poor;

predator and prey;

aggressor and collateral damage;

filled and empty;

powerful and powerless;

forgiven and scorned--

is a world of our own creation,

not God’s.


When we look through the eyes of God,

we come to see that poverty and hunger

have the power to hollow us out

creating space for God to dwell within.

Mourning and grief can break us open,

allowing the possibility of something new to emerge.

Extending mercy, even when we are hurt or betrayed,

pours a balm on our own wounds,

allowing us to embrace redemption and hope.


The Beatitudes hold up a mirror to our actions and beliefs

and in the light of that reflection,

we can be transformed.


The hillside Church of the Beatitudes

is a place of peace and beauty.

A place of pilgrimage and reflection,

calling us to prayer.

But it is also a mighty witness to an important truth.

At the beginning and end of his public life,

and throughout the whole of his ministry,

Jesus saw,

not as the world sees

but as God sees.


So must we, if we want to follow him.


Blessed is every community and every people

who gather to hear and proclaim the Good news.


Blessed are those

who keep vigil beside those who weep and mourn.


Blessed are those

who venture into the wilderness

to bind up wounds

and pour balm upon the pain

of our beautiful, broken world.


Blessed are those

who listen for the cries of the poor and oppressed

and respond with generosity and hope.


Blessed are those

who forgive,

even as their own hearts are breaking.


Blessed are those

who recognize the faces of hurting, sinful people,

as God’s own children,

worthy of mercy and love.


Blessed are those who see the world

through the eyes of our Lord,

For the Kingdom of God is theirs.

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