1Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I heard a fascinating little story on the radio the other day. It was told by a man who was reflecting on his childhood in Portland. His mom had fled with him and his 4 yr. old sister from an abusive relationship. He spent the bulk of his 6th grade year homeless. They had a routine. The school had a program which served breakfast. You could get a shower at the local community center. They knew when the police checked the parks, and they would be waiting with their gear in a shopping cart for the officer to complete his round at 6 PM and they would dash in. They had a favorite conifer in a park not far from my home whose branches came down to the ground and formed a dry and safe place. Under its branches he said he started to feel like he could relax.
I drive by that park quite often. I have likely seen the tree under which he, his mom and little sister slept. He felt blessed there, he said. It is a different definition of blessing than I am used to. Jesus looks out over the crowds of people and notes all the different types. Over each of them he pronounces a blessing. Somewhere in that list you can find yourself. Perhaps you are hungering and thirsting for a righteousness you cannot perceive in your life. Perhaps you are meek and feeling like the world’s doormat. Perhaps you mourn or are impoverished in spirit. Jesus has one word for all of us – blessed.
Eventually the story teller’s mom was able to secure a place to live. His life started to look a lot more like my idea of blessed. Today he operates a non-profit that helps young minority men complete school. There was a day, though, when he was 12, that a pine tree whose branches reached all the way to the ground was a blessing. As Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount he speaks of blessings for all sorts of people. They each look a little different, but he blesses. When the sermon is over, Jesus walks down the hill and immediately encounters a leper, a man isolated by his disease, an isolation far more rigorously observed than any COVID quarantine. The leper asks Jesus to cleanse him and Jesus does something remarkable. He touches the leper. Yes, he cleanses him of his dreadful disease, but he sees a man who has been utterly cut off from human contact by his disease. He touches him. Jesus is a blessing to all. Jesus is a blessing to you.