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Blessed are the Meek: Blessed are the Courageous

October 30, 2011

I read the paper and watch the news and I see the strong and the week. The rich and the poor. Struggle and injustice. I see crisis talks, powerful leaders talking about sums of money that I cannot even begin to imagine. I see protesters in Greece, and outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. And so, on this feast of All Saints, I turn back to my faith to find some guidance through the whirlwind and turmoil.

And what struck me strongly were the words of The Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.

You have the meek and the poor in spirit. They are the passive people and the victims of society. These are blessed, these are somehow saintly.  But you also have those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and those who have the courage to act in a way that leads to persecution, even death.  You have the strong and the week. The powerful and the powerless.

The passive and powerless are just that and they are blessed. Those who have been hurt will be comforted.

But the strong and the powerful, what about them? Well they are blessed when they use that strength, courage and power rightly. When they hunger and thirst for righteousness, when they are ready to stand up to persecution, when they strive for what they know to be right. These are often the martyrs that we remember.

We tend to recognise the saintliness of the strong and courageous.

But we often forget the quiet saintliness of the poor in spirit and the meek. Those who just get on with their lives, suffering or celebrating events beyond their control. Jesus makes it clear that these too are blessed. In fact he makes no distinction between these victims of life and the courageous warriors of the faith.

Both are blessed. Both are God’s children. A great multitude from every nation and race, rich and poor, powerful and powerless.  We have absolute confidence that God’s love and blessing is with us, whether we are strong or week. But within that comfort blanket of love – we are challenged.

We are challenged to use the power and the gifts that we have. We are challenged to hunger and thirst for what is right. We are even challenged to have the great strength to have mercy. To have mercy on those that are too meek to fight for a better world – mercy on those that have given their lives over to all that is wrong; the greed and injustice, the hate and violence. We are called to be saintly be just as God is just and to forgive as our heavenly Father forgives.

Thinking about our call to challenge injustice. Led me to think about the protesters outside of St. Paul’s. These are people that are angry about the injustice that means that the bankers that caused the current crisis by their greed are now sitting pretty again, with huge bonuses, while so many are still suffering austerity measures, unemployment and the loss of businesses.

The Dean and Chapter were caught out and seem to have made poor, perhaps naive decisions. They were caught by the compromise that is the Church of England. They were already speaking out about the injustice. But they are part of the Establishment, so they were working from within. They were using their power to keep asking the awkward questions to those in power.

But they could not be seen to hunger and thirst for the end to capitalism.   They were aware that unlike the simple message of the protesters the solutions are complicated. The protesters are united in their opposition to the injustice but they have no common agenda for what to do about it.  Unfortunately for the public image of the church, we are caught in the middle seeking to deal with the messy business of real life and real crises. We are not good at PR and we so often look tainted and foolish.  We know that the chaos of disorder is far worse overall than a stable but fallible system. People die in revolutions, lots of people. And the people in power at the end are often the same people as before, or worse. Just look at Somalia, stricken by civil war and so unstable that it cannot even receive most of the famine aid that the people of the world would like to send it.

So we compromise and we work with what is. We may hunger and thirst for what is right but must constantly sit down and eat with tax gatherers and sinners. Our hands are unclean and our hearts are unprepared for saintliness. And our care for those who suffer is hidden by the expensive trappings of respectability – buildings like St. Paul’s – by having bishops in the House of Lords.

It is this tension within the Church that led to the resignation of Canon Giles Fraser. He hungered and thirsted for righteousness and will be blessed. The Dean and Chapter chose to use the law to move on the trespassers and they are pilloried. They are being persecuted and are suffering. Giles Fraser asks us to “ pray for all those who live and work in – and those camped around” St. Paul’s. And expresses his hope the we may “ all be a beacon of God’s love and mercy in a complicated world.” Canon Fraser also says that this has forced him back to the heart of his faith.   It has forced me, back to a familiar passage like the Beatitudes.

The Dean, Canon Fraser, the Established Church and those who protest are all examples of what saintliness can be. So, whether we are strong or week, courageous or meek we are still loved by our heavenly Father, and our lives are acceptable to Him.  In acting out our attempts to be saintly we are part of that great communion of saints. The saints beatified in beautiful ceremonies and the countless multitude of rich and poor, strong and weak, from all nations and all times, all with us, all of the time.

So as we celebrate the feast of All Saints: Almighty and eternal God, you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints: grant to us the same faith and power of love, that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, we may be sustained by their example and fellowship.

 

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