Jesus lived and moved amongst scholars, religious people and everyday folk alike. The gospels often speak of crowds pressing in on him. Jesus had a presence which was magnetic and inspirational. People wanted just to get close, touch him, feel his aura. Whether or not you believe that Jesus was a supernatural being sent from heaven with miraculous powers, he was clearly a remarkable energy, a charismatic person of spirit. Or so the story goes.
Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu master went so far as to say, illustrating his fascination with the wisdom of the gospels, "I can say that the historical Jesus never interested me. Nothing would change for me if someone proved that Jesus never lived and that the Gospel narration was a fictitious story. Because the message of the Sermon on the Mount would always remain true for me."
The presentation of Jesus at the temple is one story in a series which reminds us that here was a human being with a family and the need for rituals, dialogue and a need to learn and grow. He took time for himself and meditated often. He indeed developed powers to save and heal, at least for those who have ears to hear his wisdom. This salvation will have nothing to do with 'becoming a Christian'. Rather it will be a growing enlightenment. Following is a collection of his thoughts commonly known as the Beatitudes, mixed in with some of my own reflections on his teaching.
Blessed are the poor in spirit
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Not because they lack in possessions or quality of life mind you, for there is no virtue in poverty, but because their heart is free from always needing more. They know inner contentment. They know by heart the Taoist principle, that "free from desire you realise the mystery. Caught in desire you see only the manifestation."
Blessed are those who mourn
For they will be comforted.
Not because they whimper and make victims and martyrs of themselves mind you, for there is no virtue in sadness. Rather because they raise their voices, allow the pain to be felt and heard, and choose the comfort at the right time of moving on.
Blessed are the meek
For they will inherit the earth.
Not because they are soft mind you, for there is no virtue in being dominated, but because they patiently and firmly assert their own place and value in the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice
For they will be filled.
Not because they whine on soap boxes mind you, but because they are driven by a passion for freedom and fairness.
Blessed are the merciful
For they will be shown mercy.
Not because they forget mind you, for there is no virtue in false piety, but because they know the freedom of forgiveness. They know what to change and what to accept for now.
Blessed are the pure in heart
For they will see God.
Not because they act like angels mind you, for there is no virtue in other worldliness, but because their life is transparent, and courageous in its authenticity. And there God is seen.
Blessed are the peacemakers
For they will be called children of God.
Not because they are passive mind you, for there is no virtue in covering up violence and oppression for the sake of unity. Rather because they creatively seek solutions which challenge systems of domination.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Not because they suffer mind you, for there is no virtue in humiliation, but because they know the freedom and inner strength of being consistent, bold and loving in their stances no matter what the cost. They know the wisdom of the Sufi saying, "Let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice."
Jesus conclusion; you are not the first to suffer and you will not be the last. Know however that your suffering will not be in vain. There will be growth, and there will be creative gain. Know above all that love, justice and truth will win ultimately, that the kingdom of heaven is seen wherever life and beauty are affirmed.
I'll conclude with a version of the Beatitudes called The Invitation:
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own;
If you can dance with wildness and let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being a human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even if it's not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from God's presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver moon, Yes!
It doesn't interest me where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary, bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself; and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
The Invitation, inspired by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, May 1994.