If I could ask Jesus a question or two about Matthew 5, my first question would be this: What do you mean “blessed are”? Does it mean that mourning is a blessed state that is to be pursued? Does it mean that we find a sense of blessing or a tangible blessing when mourning happens in our lives, but we don’t need to seek it out? Is mourning a basic reality of a faithful life and so we will receive the blessings that inherent in that life, through mourning and these other realities?
This passage seems confusing to most of us. It seems like a good one to hear on All Saints’ Day or at a funeral, when we can attribute the blessings to those faithful who have died and now rest in light. They have inherited and surely now they are blessed. As for the rest of us, we just muddle about as best we can.
How, then, do we sort out the bits about salt and light? Or that part about the law?
When Matthew, the author of this gospel, wrote, he was organizing the teachings and works of Jesus for a Christian community of Jews and Gentiles, people gathered in hope for the kingdom of God at hand. Matthew knows that the spread of the gospel, the very reality of God’s relationship with creation, depends in large part on this early community understanding what is at stake for them in following Christ.
They cannot take for granted that it will be easy or that they will not suffer. The struggle itself is not what brings blessing. There is an inherent state of blessedness, of inner joy and peace, that comes from knowing that the kingdom is at hand and that God has chosen to use you as part of how it comes about. Participating in God’s work- seasoning a community with faithful, loving action that points to the Light that does not fail gives shape to discipleship.
This cannot be achieved through personal, private inward religious or spiritual thought. It is a truth born out in sweat, tears, blood, water, and wine. For the early Christians, it was only when they gave themselves fully and knew that God fully using all that they had… it was then that they perceived the truth of this great sermon that there is blessing enough in being a child of God and knowing that alone is constant and unfailing.