Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Beatitudes, part 2

It seems that I forgot to mention one thing (at least one thing) in the previous post. I am of the opinion, and it really is just my own opinion and not official Baha'i doctrine, that everything in sacred text is there for a reason. I believe that when a Messenger of God puts things in a particular order, there is a wisdom and a message to that order, if we but care to look for it. Now, I may be wrong about this, of course, but I have always found it enlightening when striving to discover the reason for the order of things in these various texts.

Oh, and this also includes such things as the various Names of God mentioned in sacred texts. When Baha'u'llah uses a Name of God, such as the All-Knowing, I believe that He is calling to mind that exact attribute of God found within us, such as having a bit of knowledge.

Now, in the previous article, we finished with a bit about righteousness in the world. What's next?

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." To start, this reminds me of "an eye for an eye", but in a more positive sort of way. I think this one also follows quite well from the previous "blessed are the" in another way. A few "blessed are the"s ago, I mentioned the idea of those who show meekness being necessary for the future of the planet, and in the previous "blessed are the" how it talks about those who long to see those others who abused the poor and downtrodden being brought to justice. Well, righteousness, as you know, cuts two ways. First, it punishes the unjust. Secondly, it rewards those who merit it. In terms of the first, it is quite possible to condemn absolutely every single individual upon this planet, especially the writer of these words whose latest karma catch-up occurred just a short time ago. (Note to self: When turning on the shower in the morning, make sure the shower head is facing inwards, and not towards the shower turner-onner who is likely standing outside the shower area.) But if we show mercy towards others, then we are more likely to have mercy shown towards us. (Note to self: Go back to the shower and point the shower head back into the inside. It's not really fair to set it up for the next person in some sort of morning vengeance thing.)

If we long to see righteousness, this is good, for it will help ensure the stability of the planet. But if we show mercy, too, then we don't fall into the trap of being overly legalistic, especially at the expense of others.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." A long time ago, I was reading something about the Greatest Holy Leaf, the sister of 'Abdu'l-Baha, and I could swear that she said, "The secret is not forgiveness. The secret is to not take offense in the first place." Even if she didn't say that, it's still a very cool concept. Those who are pure in heart, so I am told, tend to see the best in others. They overlook the faults of other people and help guide them through their example. When we do that, when we see the virtues that are there shining in the heart of another, aren't we, by definition, seeing God within them? And again, this follows so well from the concept of showing mercy to others, for isn't seeing the best in them yet another form, a higher form, of mercy? And this is not to ignore the problems, to be ignorant or naive, but to instead focus on the positive aspects that can be more easily built upon.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." When we see those virtues within others, when we overlook their sins, so to speak, and recognize them as noble creations of a noble Creator, we truly help bring peace to the planet. It is through this process that we can help overcome the effects of prejudice, or even backbiting. When someone says something bad about another person, by helping switch the focus to the good qualities of that other, are we not helping bring more peace into the world? And peace, like light, is a positive quality, a quality that continually be increased. Peace is not merely an absence of war. It is a positive quality that can be continually added to. We may not be at war, and yet still not find peace within our own heart. In terms of light, we begin with absolute darkness, and we can always add more photons. We can also start at absolute zero and always add more heat. So, too, with peace. And when we witness people in history who step up to this level of human interaction, do we not think of them as the true children of God? Whether it is Martin Luther King, Jr, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela, or the schoolyard child who stood up to the bullies? There are countless others, especially on the more local scene, who come to mind, and they are the ones that I, at least, often think of as the children of God.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And these people, these peacemakers, are often then persecuted. They are standing up for righteousness, standing up for freedom and justice, and all sorts of good things, and they often suffer for it. That schoolyard child is often beaten up by those very same bullies. King and Gandhi were both assassinated. Mandela spent many long years in prison. And you know what? "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This brings us right back to the very beginning, with the poor in spirit. It is as if God presumes that those poor in spirit would have made the very same noble choices that these great, often unsung, heroes of history had made. It is as if He is reminding us that we can all make those same choices. We can all step to that great level. We can all reach those noble heights and, inadvertently, attain that kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." And you know what? Have you noticed that Jesus switches referents here? He is no longer talking about others. Before it was blessed are those other people, who did thus and that. But now it is you who are blessed. You, who are taking the time to hear what Jesus has said, to read what He has said, to study what He has said. And He is preparing them. He knows that many false things will be said of them, as they are always said of those who are at the cutting edge of spirituality. Now it is not just people of whom lies are spread that are blessed, or those who suffer this abuse because they have done nasty things to others. (Why am I reminded of that shower head again?) It is particularly those of whom these things are done because of the Messenger of God. When we suffer this abuse because of our religion, then we are blessed. And why is that? Because we are truly emulating those Messengers of God in the best way we can, by living nobly and being steadfast in the face of this abuse.

Now, I need to go adjust a shower head upstairs.

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