Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit.....

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

To be poor in spirit is simply to be humble. According to a Kenyan proverb, "It is humility that exalts one and favors him against his friends." God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Harithah ibn Wahb al-Khuza'i (Hadith of Bukhari, Islam) tells how he heard the Prophet say, "Have I not taught you how the inhabitants of Paradise will be all the humble and the weak, whose oaths God will accept when they swear to be faithful? Have I not taught you how the inhabitants of hell will be all the cruel beings, strong of body and arrogant?"

The one poor in spirit understands that everything he owns, everything he has accomplished, and all that he is, comes from and through the grace of God. Those who are poor in spirit are those who are humble and who acknowledge that God is the source of All.

Without merit am I; all merit is Thine. Thine, Lord, are all merits -- by what tongue have I power to praise Thee? (Sikhism, Adi Granth)

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain"; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that." As it is you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (Christianity, James 4: 13-16)

The poor in spirit are not attached to their possessions but hold onto them lightly, realizing that the true owner of everything is God. The poor in spirit are willing to part with their possessions and to give to those in need.

Be humble, be harmless, have no pretension, be upright, forbearing, serve your teacher in true obedience, keeping the mind and body in cleanness, tranquil, steadfast, master of ego, standing apart from the things of the senses, free from self; aware of the weakness in mortal nature. (Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita 13.7-8)

It is difficult for those who seem most favored - those who have a lot of possessions or who are famous or gifted in some way - to possess this poverty of spirit; it is quite easy for them to become proud. The Bible says that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. What is needed is the ability to hold on loosely, to realize that all you have is a gift from God, and to be ready to give all if it is required of you.

The truly poor in spirit are not prideful or boastful of their gifts, whether intelligence, beauty, wealth, high position. possessions or their accomplishments, realizing that God gives to each according to his delight.

The gift of our very lives are in the hands of God, who could take this gift back at any minute.

The Lamenter cries, for he is humbling himself, remembering his nothingness in the presence of the Great Spirit. (Native American Religions. Black Elk, Sioux Tradition)

Be of an exceedingly humble spirit, for the end of man is the worm. (Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.4)

An attitude of genuine humility and a willingness to deny oneself are the first step on the path to the kingdom of heaven, and those who possess these qualities God calls blessed.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes Series #1 of 9)

The Sermon on the Mount, from the Gospel of St. Matthew, is my favorite passage of the Bible. In this passage, Jesus sums up the entire Bible in just a few short paragraphs: love your enemies, be merciful, take care of the poor, make peace. My next eight posts will explore each of the eight Beatitudes (Blessed are the....) and show how these Beatitudes are universal, that they are something upon which all religions can agree.

The Sermon on The Mount

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and he taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom, come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.

Peace, Not War....

God hath made of one blood all nations of men. Acts 17:26

Lately I've been scared. I read the headlines with my morning cup of coffee and it seems that things in the world are just getting worse and worse. This past week an 88 year old white supremicist murdered a security guard at a Holocaust Museum because he hated Jews. An abortion doctor was gunned down at his own church during a service because a mentally ill man had gotten revved up by listening to far right conservative Christians spout hate, and North Korea is threatening war with any country who stops its ships. And not just any war. Nuclear war. There is so much anger and hatred in the world and lately there is a sense of things escalating and reaching the point of meltdown and confrontation.

All creatures are the family of God; and he is the most beloved of God who does most good to His family. Islam, Hadith

Nothing good has ever come of war. If we look back over our history, many wars have been fought, the majority of which were religious wars. Differences of opinion and belief. The need for one group to prove that their way is right and to destroy all heretics who disagree.

Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother? Judaism, Malachi 2:10

The last world war killed 72 million people in a period of about 10 years. The war in Iraq has so far killed about 85,000 people. Vietnam killed around 2 million people and achieved absolutely nothing, as do most wars. This can't possibly be our Creator's will, can it? To slaughter one another in cold blood? To never learn from our mistakes?

God is the Father, Earth the Mother. With all things and in all things, we are relatives. Sioux, Native American, Zona

If one studies the scriptures of many of the religions, it is quite clear that there is a call for peace, for understanding, for love of one's neighbor. We need to "get" this. And quickly. The next world war could do more than kill millions, it could destroy the entire planet.

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