During the last week, we celebrated the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, our ancestors who have preceded us into eternal life. People in some churches heard or read the Beatitudes on Tuesday.
When Jesus first walked among the crowds saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven,” his promises must have seemed extraordinary. But Christians throughout history have recorded their own astonishment at the amazing fulfillment of what must have initially seemed utterly outlandish.
Some people seem unaware or struck dumb by the gifts they have received. They may feel the amazement but putting it in words is the work of the poets. So Raymond Carver, who died at fifty, marveled that the last ten years of his life were “gravy.” Because of his alcoholism, he had received a terminal diagnosis at age forty. The love of poet Tess Gallagher, with her encouragement to stop drinking, bought him years he never thought he’d see.
C.S. Lewis describes the abundance that underlies the Beatitudes:
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
So perhaps these feasts lift our sights, restoring the spectacular knowledge that the holiness of ordinary folks is a participation in God’s, that our inheritance is that of God’s daughters and sons, and that jankety and limited as we are, we are still sure, redeemed, everlasting.