The “Second Week”: Week Seventeen/Session Two.
Theme: Meditation on Two Standards.
Our reading for today: Matthew 4:23 – 5:12.
From there He (Jesus) went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God’s Kingdom was His theme—that beginning right now they were under God’s government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives.
When Jesus saw His ministry drawing huge crowds, He climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to Him, the committed, climbed with Him. Arriving at a quiet place, He sat down and taught His climbing companions. This is what He said: (Matthew 4: 23, 5: 1-2 MsgB)
The next ten verses that follow (Matthew 5: 3-12) contain what the Church now calls The Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes. Eight blessings, each a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative, yet precise truths aimed at setting, what some believe to be a concise, summarized set of ideals on which to build a life that best honors Jesus and all of His teachings.
The term beatitude comes from a Latin noun which means ‘happiness.’ And if there’s one common thing that all of us human beings are searching for in this life, it’s happiness, right? So it’s understandable then why these eight short proverbial phrases have captured the attention of so many over the centuries, from Jesus’ first group of listeners sitting on the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee to people far and wide.
St. Ignatius, as we’ve been discussing this week, believed that there are Two Standards, two ultimate kingdoms vying for rulership over the lives of every human being who has ever lived on this planet. From his perspective, he believed it wise for those who desire to follow Jesus to recognize these two banners flying high over the kingdoms of this world. The one banner is the flag of true Freedom and Light, raised high by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus, the Christ or the Messiah of God. The second banner belongs to Lucifer, the lesser but yet still strong power who looks to govern this world through his exerted will of evil and darkness.
And, as Ignatius believed, if these Two Standards (or kingdoms) had rules to live by, the Beatitudes spoken here by Jesus in Matthew 5 were indeed, the core truths on which the Kingdom of God is based. In other words, if one were to choose rightly for the Kingdom of God, then living by the light of Jesus’ eight Beatitudes would become, then, our standard of living.
As I see it, if these eight proverbial-truths are indeed that important for those of us who desire to live under the banner of God, maybe it just might be helpful to unpack these truths a bit more and ponder on these golden nuggets spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. And in the interest of fairness toward all, what better way to ponder God’s truth than by placing Lucifer’s ‘truth’ right alongside? Maybe that way, the counterfeit will be more easily seen and the real truth might truly set us free? So here goes…Jesus’ Eight Beatitudes with Lucifer’s Eight Beatitudes running parallel alongside…
Jesus’ Beatitude #1: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #1: You’re blessed when you have everything under control. God helps those who help themselves.
Jesus’ Beatitude #2: You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #2: You’re blessed when your lives are full and you’re reveling in all your victories. Only then can you be deemed as ‘successful’ by the dog-eat-dog world that surrounds you.
Jesus’ Beatitude #3: You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #3: You’re blessed when you’ve become like the successful people you’ve always held in great esteem. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can be bought.
Jesus’ Beatitude #4: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #4: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for the world’s finest luxuries. There’s nothing sweeter than victory over your enemies.
Jesus’ Beatitude #5: You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #5: You’re blessed when you take care of number one. At the moment your bank account is full, you find yourselves well cared for.
Jesus’ Beatitude #6: You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #6: You’re blessed when you’ve conquered the world around you. You’ll see God when you’ve won all life’s battles.
Jesus’ Beatitude #7: You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #7: You’re blessed when you never yield or compromise with others. You discover who you really are when you’ve scaled the mountain and planted your flag of victory at its peak.
Jesus’ Beatitude #8: You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s Kingdom.
Lucifer’s Beatitude #8: You’re blessed when your spirituality makes no waves for yourself or others. Winning the approval of your peers while never compromising your personal drive will bring you the deepest internal peace.
So there you have it.
Jesus’ Eight Ways to Happiness (Beatitudes) vs. Lucifer’s Eight Ways to Happiness (Beatitudes).
Which set of Beatitudes looks good to you?
My prayer: Father God, when I truly take the time to ponder the core truths of the Two Standards, I’m shocked at the contrast. Thank You that Jesus spelled it out so clearly that day on the hills outside Capernaum. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So which set of Beatitudes will become my marching orders today? How might I be picking and choosing from both sides of the menu? What needs to change so that I make all of my life choices today standing under the Standard (banner) of God?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.
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