Blessed be the Lord! For He has heard the voice of my supplications.
I wrote a lengthy reflection on my time at summer camp last month which I’ve shared with my parish as a long article in the monthly bulletin. For this week, I’m going to share it with you in five parts. Today is part one.
This year, our theme for summer camp was “Always Blessed: A Study of the Beatitudes.” The Beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:1-16. We took a whole week and studied all of these verses thoroughly. We learned things like we are blessed when we are meek. Most people think that “meek means weak.” It doesn’t. Meekness is power under control. Think of a surgeon. This person might have an athletic build, lift weights, run laps, mow grass, lift heavy objects, be well learned and well spoken. But at the moment he or she is performing surgery, this strength is under control—it is delicate, purposeful, intentional, and careful. This is what it means to be meek—to be delicate, purposeful, intentional and careful. And we are all called to be this, whether we are performing surgery, or having a delicate conversation.
We learned that we should feel blessed even when persecuted, especially when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We are so obsessed with being liked that we will say and do things we are know are wrong just to be popular, just to be liked. Jesus teaches us that ultimately there is only one like that matters and that is His. When we are persecuted for Him, when the world reviles us because we love Him, that’s when He loves us even more, that’s when He blesses us even more.
To be poor in spirit has nothing to do with being materially poor, or even self-loathing. It to do with being humble and desiring to know God more. To be pure in heart means to have a heart that desires God, that empties itself of an agenda, that repents for sins, and that seeks to be patient, kind and optimistic.
These Beatitudes are really “be-attitudes.” These are the attitudes that we are supposed to have in life. These are attitudes that will make for a more fulfilling life.
Jesus concludes this section of Scripture, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount—Matthew chapters 5-6-7, the greatest sermon ever given—by telling us that we are two things. We are the salt of the earth, (Matthew 5:13) He tells us. Salt is used to give taste to something and as a preservative. Many things taste better with salt on them. Think French fries. The world is better when the Christians flavor life with the beatitudes, when we inject purity, humility and meekness where there is filth, ego and chaos. We are supposed to be the salt that flavors the earth with Godly things. Salt also makes us more thirsty. There is a reason why they put out free peanuts in bars. Peanuts have salt. Salt makes us thirsty. Thirsty patrons drink more. Well, when we are the salt of the earth, we should want to thirst more for God. We should want to drink more of Scripture, more prayer, and more good works.
Jesus then says “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) THIS is the quality that we share with Him. Because in John 8:12, He says “I am the light of the world.” Where there is light, even a little light, there cannot be darkness. Light always defeats darkness, not the other way around. We know that the first thing God created was light. We know that His light can never be overtaken by darkness._(John 1:5) We are supposed to shine as lights in the world, by our example. We are supposed to bring His light into the world, by our words and deeds. If His light shines even in the darkest of places, we are supposed to always feel blessed, even in the most difficult of moments.
Christ, the True Light, Who enlightens and sanctifies every person who comes into the world, let the light of Your countenance shine on me, that I may behold Your ineffable light, Direct my steps in the way of Your commandments, through the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos and all Your saints. Amen. (Prayer, Christ the True Light, from the 1st Hour)
Be a light in the world today!