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Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I need your grace to believe you are here with me now even if I don’t feel you. I know you are looking upon me with tremendous love, desiring to want to spend this time with me. I too want to love you by showing up just as I am. I give you this time, putting everything else aside to offer you my love, praise, and thanksgiving. How much I need your grace at this moment! I ask you to please send me your Holy Spirit to keep my heart still and at peace, so I can hear without resistance what you want to tell me through this time of prayer. I ask you for the strength to be able to respond with a generous heart.
- The Kingdom of God: The Beatitudes express our human experience as followers of Christ and the cost of discipleship. They inform our choices under the law of Christ’s kingdom. As his disciples, we proclaim through our life and suffering the mysterious joy of being members of his kingdom. “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20-21). To be poor of spirit, meek, righteous, and merciful identify us as belonging to Christ’s kingdom even in the face of sadness, violent opposition, social injustice, or whatever difficulty. Only with God’s grace and strength in our souls can we act in this way. This is how he established his everlasting kingdom. When my heart is breaking because of the misery of so many today, I must not think that God has forgotten me. Instead I thank God for the particular way he is asking me to build his kingdom as his disciple. And I ask for purity of heart, spiritual strength, and interior peace.
- Conflicting Contrasts: It is a challenging and daunting proposition. Who wants to be poor, sad, conflicted, excluded, or demeaned? We try to do everything possible to avoid or at least minimize the chance of finding ourselves in such circumstances. Jesus is not asking us to flee or seek out discomforts, but rather he wants us to realize that God always holds a brighter promise and eternal hope for what we endure. If we seek God first we find that he is always calling us further. By way of apparent conflicting contrasts–poverty/riches; hunger/fullness; sorrow/laughter; and defamation/commendation–Jesus upturns the value we would normally consider desirable or pleasing. He is inviting us to embrace the truth that we cannot simply live to be happy in this life but must consider living in a way that ensures our eternal life because “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
- Cultivating Blessedness: To be “blessed” refers to the fullness of life and meaning that comes from living in union with God. Jesus repeats it eight times here at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount. Although we can’t experience the complete fulfillment of all desire until we reach heaven, here on earth the growing sense of spiritual happiness that comes from a friendship with Christ is what is meant by “blessed.” Let us not be Christians daunted by the “woes” of lamenting what we falsely took for granted or held onto. The Christian hope for eternity is not in what we can bring along with us but rather in the things we freely gave away, “even if only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). Cultivating blessedness is to rejoice in what we have to suffer for love of Christ while generously sharing his goodness with those in need. Which of the beatitudes is drawing me into a deeper union with Our Lord? How am I seeking blessedness in accepting what he is asking of me and sharing my gifts with others?
Conversing with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for inviting me to share in building up your kingdom both here on earth and in heaven. I thank you for giving me the grace to see how I am to accept suffering, inconvenience, or discomfort with purity of heart and meekness, allowing your mysterious kingdom to take shape in my heart. Thank you for giving true and lasting purpose to my life in all that I experience. So often I resist, complain, or ignore these opportunities out of cowardice and I lose perspective. Help me to be a true disciple of your kingdom, always looking toward heaven as I strive to bring others closer to you through humbly and peacefully enduring whatever you ask. O Lord, grant me a meek and humble heart like yours!
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray for all who experience rejection, denunciation, or hostility, offering any inconvenience, especially for my Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith.
For Further Reflection: Watch the conference “The Beatitudes: A Portrait of Christ’s Kingdom” from “The Kingdom Without End: A Retreat Guide on Christ the King.”
Written by Lucy Honner, CRC