St. Paul, as always, offers some pretty solid advice in his letter to the Corinthian Christians; “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”
Brag not about your local professional football team and how good they area as a team of individuals coming together as one to win the biggest game of the year. Boast not about your accomplishments in such ways where we actually fall into the trap of believing we are the source and inventor of good results on our own. Boast not of your children and grandchildren without understanding the power and presence of God living and moving and possessing their being. Isn’t that such a great thought? That God is living in and moving the beauty and innocence of children? And, boast not in your faith that will lead you to the face of God, as well as the faces of those you love so deeply, unless we’re certain of where such faith originates. Boast, rather, in the Lord. Which is the seed of humility.
Back about 7 or 8 years ago now, I stood on this very mountain where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes. That’s not a boast. Appropriately, it’s called the Mount of Beatitudes. It’s a small mountain that overlooks a portion of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, a most serene setting for the area where Jesus delivered what many call today his social gospel. It’s a name for these teachings which is fine, as long as the Gospel of Christ is not restricted to the words spoken on the Mount of Beatitudes.
The teachings of our Lord of how we as Christians are to interact with the rest of humanity are without question central to defining who Christ is. But they are not the center of who Christ is. The center of Jesus Christ is the Cross of Christ, of which St. Paul glories in. His death on the Cross is the ultimate purpose of his birth. And from his sacrificial act on the Cross flow these heavenly teachings that we are to embrace and practice throughout the entirety of our weeks, days, and hours. Not one day a week, as the present culture so wrongfully suggests. But each hour of each day.
Without Jesus carrying a Cross and dying for the salvation of our souls, the beatitudes would be relegated to the category of nice sounding words. Or, teachings to possibly consider. Of which they are much more.
Instead, the beatitudes are teachings of boasting, because when we choose to live as peacemakers, people who sincerely desire peace in our families, communities, nation and world, we are boasting in the Lord. Think about that simple thought; to seek peace is to boast in the Lord.
To extend mercy is an act of boasting in God. Because arrogant, prideful people who are obstinate will never in a thousand years extend an act of mercy to a family member or stranger. Acts of mercy directed at someone has the power to bring others to conversion, as well as ourselves. To offer forgiveness is to brag about Jesus Christ. The olive branch is a boasting branch.
What did Jesus say as he hung on the Cross, looking directly down on those who put him up there? “Father, forgive them for being stupid people. They don’t know what they do.” I know, Jesus didn’t call them stupid people, but he might as well have. I would like to say Jesus was making an excuse for their violent ways, but I can’t say that because Jesus always spoke the truth. They really didn’t know the depth of what they were doing. So he pled for mercy to be granted to them. He boasted in his Father and himself.
On that pastoral setting on the Mount of Beatitudes were spoken words that seek to cause us to look internally and ask, “Where do I need God’s boasting the most? Where can I make the biggest difference at any given time?” Because every one of these beatitudes will arise before us, challenging our capacity to boast in the Lord, or to boast in ourselves. To boast in grace, or to boast in sin. And God knows there is much boasting in sin today. I hear much of it when I’m in civilian clothes and they have no idea what I do for a living.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” still echoes off the mountain in present day northern Israel, carrying over the waters of the Sea of Galilee, as well as the Atlantic Ocean to America. To live a life of simplicity rather than one that gets caught up in a complicated world. To live the fundamental, simple truth that God is love. Those three words will always uncomplicate our lives when the worst levels of uncertainty can be upon us. To live “God is love,” is to boast in the Lord.
I’ve been part of enough funerals now where mourning the loss of the deceased has been deep and very painful. A pain that remains for good. Blessed are you if you mourn, because if you mourn and love greatly, you boast in the Lord. If you don’t mourn, then you’re either a robot or you’re Irish. But alas, even the Irish mourn. When you mourn because of heartfelt love, you boast in the Lord. That hole you carry in your heart is proof of your bosting in the Lord. He wept outside of the grave of Lazarus with Mary and Martha, the dead man’s sisters. Then he filled the hole in every heart present that day by raising his friend from the grave. The 2 sisters boasted in their mourning; Jesus boasted in his power.
It’s a beautiful setting in Israel. I pray some of you get to see it one day if you haven’t already. It’s a social gospel for sure. But it’s much more than that. The beatitudes are words of boasting. Boasting that Christ is our driver. Driving us from the Mount of Beatitudes to the place we call eternal, living out his many blessings along the way.