This post is based on Week Six of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
For all of my life as I have heard the Beatitudes read, my first reaction has been: “Which one am I? I am definitely not the poor in spirit. Am I the peacemaker? Am I the one who hungers for righteousness?”
Essentially I saw the teaching as who I needed to be to be “in” with Jesus. So after 40-plus years of trying to find myself in the Beatitudes, I experienced a bit of a revelation through the Ignatian Prayer Adventure to find that the Beatitudes are less about who I am and more about how I see everyone else. They are about seeing others through the eyes of Christ.
The Beatitudes appear in the Gospel of Matthew and are shared shortly after the call of the disciples. If I put myself in the scene as St. Ignatius instructs, I’m the one with the Hermione Granger hand shooting up in a panic to be called on, “Oh, pick me! Pick me!” even though I have no idea what exactly Jesus was seeking in the call of his disciples. Instead, he walks on up the mountainside, and I am left feeling a bit dismissed.
As the crowds begin to form to hear Jesus preach, I feel oddly competitive and judgmental. I wonder if he sees me as just one of the crowd. Suddenly, as if asking the question were the key to taking me into his head, I find myself no longer one of the crowd, but rather staring at the crowd through Jesus’ eyes. He begins to preach the Beatitudes, but I am now seeing people differently. As he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” I notice a woman who dares not look up, but I now know her story of being ridiculed relentlessly from a young age. As Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn,” there is a man standing against a tree with distraught eyes, red and glassy, with tear streaks down his face. Somehow I know he has lost his child and subsequently his will to live. And as the sermon goes on, each of the “in” crowd shows himself or herself with their stories, ones I had been too self-focused to imagine previously.
It was less than two minutes of prayer and reflection, yet it changed my understanding of what it means to be “blessed.” Each of those around me was blessed in some way—if only I was willing to look for it.
Now when I hear the Beatitudes, I don’t worry if I fit in to Jesus’ list of the blessed. Instead I hear how I am called to see others. When I walk down any street, I can hear that same voice in my head, “Blessed is this one and that one, and him, and her…” as if Jesus were pointing them out to me. Those whose stories I don’t know are not my competition and are not there for me to judge. If I can begin by seeing each individual with the title of “blessed,” I find myself blessed just to be in the crowd among them.