This week, we encounter Luke’s shorter version of the Beatitudes. Here, we find ourselves “hashtag blessed,” though, not exactly in the way the ubiquitous use of that phrase has become popular. “Blessed are you” in all its glory is far from a trite phrase to indicate that our material gain is evidence of God’s favor. Rather, as we pray with the Beatitudes, we begin to see our blessing comes from a place of emptiness. Our blessing comes from a posture that invites the Holy Spirit to fill us, to allow God to draw near to us in times of sorrow, hardship, frustration, and exclusion.
Pope Francis, early in his pontificate, put great emphasis on the Beatitudes. Since Papa and I are simpatico, I believe his intention was to move us away from an understanding of God that is formulaic and punitive. Rather than a people who adhere to the “thou shalt nots” to achieve a reward – “hashtag blessed” style – we begin to view our place as the “blessed are you” beloved of God. What a radical shift that is in how we encounter Christ, in how we live in the world, in how we view one another!
There is no question that the last two years have left many of us feeling less than whole, some feeling quite broken. Whether from the loss of loved ones, jobs, homes, security, normalcy, or a feeling of belonging matters not. Instead of falling into a cycle of playing the blame game for all that has gone wrong, how much better are we served by adopting a “beatitude attitude” in its place? Where has God been found in the hardship? How have we brought the light of Christ into places of despair? Who has been that light to us? Instead of cursing the darkness, soak up the life giving waters of mercy God has waiting for you.
Our God doesn’t require a perfect track record to be near us. In fact, He sent His Son to redeem us while we were sinners – are sinners. And in our imperfection, God pours out His blessing. Over and over again, He shows us we are His beloved no matter what we have done or what life has thrown at us. In our mourning, He brings comfort. In our poverty, He gives us His Kingdom. In our hunger, He gives us His body. And in all the ways we are excluded, He draws us close to His Sacred Heart, calling us to Himself by name. It reminds me of what my mom used to tell me in my moments of unpopular teenage angst. This experience is not all there is – there is a world out there where you will belong and be loved as you are. Friends, there is a God out there – and right here – who says the same. Blessed and beloved are you. And He means it.
On this Galentine’s Day, let God love you like Leslie Knope loves Ann Perkins. You too, are a beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox.