My mom sent me a great gift in the mail recently... An old book!! (could there be any better gift...Maybe, sometimes a new book...)
She and I had both been working our way through Brennan Manning's suggested titles and she found this title, "The Choice to be Human: Jesus Alive in the Gospel of Matthew" by Eugene Kennedy. Great, great insights into the book of Matthew, passage by passage.
I've been stuck on the Beatitudes the last couple of days (read the Message paraphrase http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?Search=Matthew%205:1-12;&version=65 )
I admit that this has never been what I would call a favorite passage of mine. I think that might be for the reason that for most of my life I lived with the default understanding that this was just another list of things I had to accomplish. Even though I've been freed from that kind of legalistic thinking and I've come to know the Character of God in a fresher, sweeter way I am still (and probably will forever be) reprogramming my mind to see the word of Christ in that same way.
Kennedy offers this thought about the blessings Christ doles out in Matthew 5: (pp. 27,28)
"And yet what can we now make of it, this message that promises so much to our longing hearts? It gives no sign, points to no wonder, gives us nothing, not a scrap of ritual, to carry out. What price must we pay for the self-possession of this blessedness? How do we lay hold of this mount on which we stand. We are already in the place of pilgrimage; the journey is done for those who can look deeply within themselves. Our blessedness is not to be found outside of our experience; joy is ours when we embrace rather than attempt to escape our lives.
Happiness is a word that reveals itself in its structure; hap, its root, comes from the word for by chance or by accident. Joy does not arrive through luck; the blessedness that Jesus speaks of is not the outcome of a cruel lottery that delivers prizes to some while it denies them to others. This joy is available to all, to the lame and the blind, the oppressed and the luckless, to the poor and, miracle beyond telling, to the rich as well. It depends on opening ourselves to life rather than closing ourselves off.
And now the words that sweep down the years like a wind that sometimes grinds the soul with the teeth of winter and at other times heals it with the scented oils of spring. A paradox and more than that. Discovering our poverty we find that we are already rich, in letting go of everything we get the best of it all back, heaped up and overflowing, the staggering bounty that is the inheritance of the true believer. The lock on the Christian treasure is here and the key is in it. How do we grasp and turn this key so that the treasure may fall open?
The most dizzying paradox of the gospel is connected with this, for we must open it ourselves. Nor is it as difficult as some alchemists of the Spirit make the secrets of religion seem. We can open it only if we give up complications and the air-scratching rituals of magic. That is the whole point of what Jesus teaches. It is as simple as saying, "Follow me," and as hard as breaking our hearts open to life all around us."
My identity as a follower of Christ -- one who has chosen to be crucified with Him, raised with Him and seated with Him at the right hand of the Father -- allows me to receive the blessings of the Beatitudes every day. Because I have the mind of Christ and am able to actually "let this mind be in me" I am able to participate in that death, burial and resurrection every day.
Sweet rest is found in this truth.