Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
“Favored by God”
The scriptural Beatitudes are an important list of nine “blessed” verses, or “favored by God” verses, as the Greek word actually translates. In this, the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confers a blessing upon various groups of people who are characterized by what they are (the meek) or what they do (the peacemakers). He seeks to provide encouragement in time of difficulty by assuring them of the great reward that accompanies their salvation.
Who are these people Jesus identifies and uplifts? The poor in spirit are those who stand before God acknowledging their spiritual bankruptcy and need for dependence on God alone. Those who mourn grieve over sin and tragedy in the world; the meek understand their state of lowliness, realizing their true hope is in God. People who hunger and thirst for righteousness desire not only to do God’s will personally, but that justice may be the norm everywhere.
Being merciful embraces both forgiveness for the guilty and compassion for the suffering and needy; the reward is mercy shown not by others but by God. Persons who are pure in heart live with an inner purity and free from deceit or hypocrisy. Peacemakers are much more than peaceful people; they earnestly work toward whole-ness in a broken world, and will be called the children of God because they reflect something of the character of their heavenly Father. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are the people who incur tribulation because of their love for God.
What Jesus promises all these groups of men and women is probably referring to end-times, when he says, “Your reward is great in heaven.” Might it also be possible, when life is lived under kingdom norms, to experience occasional blissful moments of the heavenly reward on earth?
Donna Hurt, Home Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC