For many years the beatitudes were a source of great disturbances in me. Whenever I approached Jesus’ words I was overwhelmed with a sense of failure, not to mention the condemnation that clouded my consciousness. Frankly, I preferred to skip that part of the Bible because of its negative effect on me.
Let us not think that we are not meant to face these negatives, because we learn by contrasts and the luster of the positives that swallows up the negatives are greatly enhanced by what they are contrasted against. We know how light and darkness are two sides of the same thing, but when light swallows up darkness the only thing we are aware of is the light, not the absence of darkness.
The beatitudes are an outline of who God is, and not something I have to become. It is the demarcation line between self-effort and faith, between outer and inner life. The question we all face and which we have to answer each by ourselves when reading Jesus’ words is: Is this something I am to fulfill, or is it already fulfilled in me by the simple fact that I am one person with God?
A most crucial question for me has been: Am I really the light of the world? My word of faith is: “Yes, I am!” I couldn’t, however, answer this question with faith before the negatives had done their work in me pressing me from outer facts to inner facts.
Faith always speaks against what appears to be, and is what connects us with spirit reality, and spirit reality will in its time come back and give us the full assurance of faith. Let us not mistake this with the fleeting sensations of emotions or experiences. It is consciousness, that is, our personal inner knowing or know-how. It is the Kingdom growing up in us and we don’t know how. We only know that what once was insubstantial to us becomes substance by faith, that is, what we take by faith.
The mystics maintained that matter is darkness to spirit, and spirit is darkness to matter. Faith is hence what turns on the light in the realm of appearances.
When I read Jesus’ words, “Be perfect as God is perfect” that seemed to me as an unattainable goal. Three paths open up at this juncture. The first is the one of self-effort and when on this path we with gritted teeth and determination set out to be perfect. Of course, we fail miserably. But, it is a glorious path because it leads to our nothingness and from nothingness faith springs forth.
The second path is the one which sign reads: “God is satisfied if I do the best I can.” It is the less desirable path for one obvious reason. It takes us nowhere. Those who have eyes will read the small print on the sign which plainly reads, “Lukewarm” and get off that path as fast as they can.
The third path is the one of faith. It is our detour into the wilderness (taken there by the Spirit) that conditions us for the glory that never fades. Am I perfect as God is perfect? “Yes, I am, because He is my life! Whatever He is I am.”
The beatitudes are places to which the Spirit takes us so that the various blessings become “flesh” in us. “Aha, now I see what it means to be poor in the spirit!” which is a discovery we make when we face our utter nothingness, and we thus agree with Jesus: “I of myself can do nothing.”
The beatitudes are being, not doing. They are who I am by God’s grace. A revolution takes place in our consciousness when the Spirit who gives life swallows up the letter that brings death. We no longer see the absence of the things we should be –by faith we only see the light of who we are. Two sides of the same thing, but the one who is operative swallows up the other and gains its strength from its negative.