The Beatitudes

Today I had the privilege of serving as an assisting priest at my home parish.  I love to be there and see old friends and all those who supported me with their prayers and good wishes as I was discerning my call to the priesthood (and still do as I strive to live out my vocation).  Apparently it is fun for them to see me in the role we discussed often back in the day.  What was especially lovely is that my dear friend John, who was part of my group that went through the diocesan discernment process together, was the preacher.  Today's Gospel reading was the Matthew beatitudes.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, the meek.

John's message was simple and true.  The beatitudes are not a list of feel-good sayings by our wise friend Jesus to be needlepointed and hung on the wall; neither are they a list of requirements that we must figure out how to meet so that we can get into heaven.

Rather, they are the message from God through Jesus that no one is outside God's embrace and blessing.  We are all blessed because we are God's creation, whether we fit into that list or not, but that list is there to remind us to know and remember that those who others push aside and exclude are also loved by God.  So we don't need to spend time worrying about whether or not we are good enough to receive God's grace.  That's just not what it's about.

Most of us think we are not good enough.  We think we need to earn grace and that really we just don't deserve it.  But John's message was simply that we are deserving because we are God's, that God did not create us to then go off and condemn us.  We just have to understand God's abundance, to claim that grace, that blessing, so that we can spend our time and energy being a blessing to others.

What a blessing it was to me to serve alongside a friend John as well as my mentor (the rector of the parish), to read the Gospel, to lay hands on those who came for prayers after the service, to see the smiles and hear more good wishes from those who have supported me for so long.