By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 5:1-10
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, 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 will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Rather than consider each beatitude in isolation, it can be illuminating to consider them in relation to each other. To aid us in this — and for fun — let us think about each beatitude as a level in a videogame. Players start with the most basic level, level one, and upon completing it with enough success, they gain something necessary — a prize, a secret, a skill — to tackle level two. And on it goes. First we have the poor in spirit: those who exercise great humility. Without humility, we cannot hope to attain the kingdom. To achieve humility is to have received our proper orientation. Upon completion of this “level,” players can now see the map of the route to the other levels, which all lead to the final destination, the kingdom of heaven.
Note, however, that the end result of the first and final beatitudes is the same: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The journey spirals back around, taking the players back to the start of level one. It is more challenging this time around, but the players, already armed with considerable skills and rewards, are sufficiently prepared for the added difficulty.
If we take the order of the beatitudes seriously, we cannot skip over any of them. Working backwards from “blessed are the peacemakers,” we see a person cannot become a peacemaker unless he has seen God. He cannot see God unless he is pure in heart, which requires the mercy of God. There are no cheat codes in this game. As we each consider our individual journeys that we set out on together — yes, this is a multiplayer game — we must learn the rules which God has set before us and start at the beginning, with humility.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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