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Spirituality fulfills the Law: The Beatitudes

Spirituality is foreign to us, because it is paradoxical and few of us have had training in grasping paradox. We’re faced with the challenge of choosing to lose so we can win and die so we can live. And that takes grace rather than logic, morals, or ethics.
Opening to grace requires admitting we need it. And that’s the leap of faith that jump starts our spiritual journey.
The following are my paraphrases of the Beatitudes. I have translated the word “blessed” as meaning “open to grace.”     The originals are in Matthew 5:3-11
The Beatitudes
Graced are the poor in spirit for they are not filled with self-righteousness, so they are able to be open to God.
Graced are those that accept the pain of loss for they will find the Comforter’s joy within instead of settling for  pleasure to escape pain.
Graced are those who do not need to own or control anything, for they are free to enjoy the beauty of everything.
Graced are those who know and regret that they are imperfect, for they are free to accept Jesus as their righteousness.
Graced are those who recognize the log in their own eye, for they can accept the unconditional love of God and grow more and more able to love imperfect humans, including themselves.
Graced are those who are focused on God, for they will see God everywhere.
Graced are the peacemakers, because no cause or group owns them; they belong only to God.
Graced are those persecuted for Jesus’ sake, for they know Jesus.
Graced are the falsely accused and rejected, for they learn to need only God.

These are the truths Jesus taught that fulfill the law.

Become Peacemakers: Wars Kill Our Souls

From The Upper Room August 6, 2013:
A reflection on Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

I hated the Americans who massacred so many people, including my sister, with the atomic bomb when I was fourteen. For many years I could neither forgive nor forget what they had done. But as I started to read the Bible, I was challenged and changed by the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”(Luke 23:34)
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done. We ask for our daily food, forgiveness, and salvation from evil. Then we affirm God’s dominion, power, and glory. For me, forgiveness is a strong and powerful attitude.
Paul said,”Be kind to one another” and “tenderhearted.” When we allow God to make our hearts tender, we become able to forgive. For me forgiveness is given so strongly and so powerfully from God through Jesus, that it breaks through the hatred caused by the atomic bomb. Contributed by Haruyoshi Fujimoto

My reflections:

War and fear breed hatred beyond understanding and war leaves wounds too deep for human healing.

In 2003, I visited the small town of Shrewsbury, England.  I went to their tiny, but ancient, Military Museum.  There were relics and accounts of literally millennia of wars.  There was a captured American regiment’s flag from our own Revolutionary War with England.  There were long lists of local men killed in war after war after war.  Many of the family names on the lists were the same for generation after generation.   Most of the wars were with countries that are now England’s allies.  Unbelievably, this small rather insignificant museum had actually been damaged by an IRA bomb a year before.  My maiden name is O’Leary, so I felt saddened by that, though after visiting Ireland and seeing the evidence of England’s repression and injustice to the Irish, I did finally understand the conflict. Seeing the lists of those lost to war, of families decimated, of enemies now allies, and allies now enemies, realizing that in all those other countries there were matching lists, I thought of all the little people who bear the brunt of wars and even the survivors who are never the same.  My life experiences have taught me that there are no good guys in wars. And now my beloved America was following in England’s footsteps.  Sorrow overwhelmed me.

During WWII my mother was Personnel Director for a large American Army Post. Part of her job was keeping up morale and this required showing movies of our soldiers cornering Japanese soldiers in caves. When the Japanese soldiers came out of the caves with their hands up, our soldiers set them on fire with flame throwers, and the civilian personnel watching these movies would all cheer. Mom came home sick and unable to sleep after having to show and watch these.

Some years ago, I worked in a Christian Book Store. A young man, about nineteen or twenty years old, came in to buy a bible and we got to talking. He began to tell me about being in the army and just returning from fighting in Panama. With tears in his eyes he told me about his squad being ordered to take over a building where enemy soldiers were thought to be hiding. As they approached, people suddenly came running out of the building, and he and his fellow soldiers responded with machine gun fire. It turned out that it was a school and the people running out were teachers and their young students.

Almost thirty years ago, I was a Civil Service employee on an U.S. Army Post. Technically, I was an Education Specialist-Religion in the Chaplains’ Division. I was Associate Director of All Religious Education for the Post and Director of the Catholic Religious Education Program for the 9,000 Catholics on Post. Central America was at that time a hotbed of political revolution with America unofficially supporting various sides. I had many military men and women volunteers teaching in our Sunday children’s classes. I learned quickly to make sure each of our fifty classes had two teachers, with at least one of them being civilian, since overnight without any warning, all the military would disappear and I’d end up with classrooms full of children without teachers. I never knew exactly where they went. Everyone just said people had gone “south.” There were no official declarations of war and often we ended up fighting in support of blatantly evil dictators, because the communists were supporting the rebels.

The individuals I met in the military are amazing people.  They spend their lives far away from their families of origin, so they form close bonds among themselves, which they renew when their paths crisscross over the years.  With both men and women now serving all over the world, their families and their communities are small versions of the United Nations Assembly. In civilian life, people coming from other countries tend to cling together and to their native cultures.  The army life more or less forces the military to live with, work with, learn with, and support each other across races, nationalities, and cultures.  Marriage with citizens of other countries and cultures is common place and families are multi-racial and cultural.  Frequent separations make marriage harder than normal and many blended families may have children of several different racial and national backgrounds. It is a paradox that the rank and file of the military are the greatest witness to hope for peace among diverse people, I have ever encountered. When we protest against war, these are not the people causing them.  These are the people dying in them. War is political. We civilians are just as much a part of the political systems that create wars.

One of my friends did training for Religious Education teachers for the nearest Catholic Diocese. She also happened to be a leader in the local Peace and Justice movement. I invited her to come lead one of our Teacher Training Workshops. I think the title was: Teaching as Jesus Taught, which stressed using stories like Jesus did. Our Religious Ed Department included a large combination Library/Conference Room, which we used for this workshop. It just so happened the room was already set up for a Chaplains’ conference on ministering to soldiers when battles involved limited nuclear weapons. The set up included horrifying photos, that I hoped were only simulated, all around the walls. My friend was a kind and sensitive woman, who did not intend to cause me any problems by being offensively anti-military. She did not need to. As she gently led us in listening to Jesus’s words, one of the teachers noticed the photos and called attention to them. No words could have illustrated the gap between the world’s way and the way of Jesus better. The photos said it all.

God forgive us all, for we know not what we do.

Whom do you see as  the “bad guys” in your world?  Your parents’ world?  Your grandparents’ world?  Your children’s world?  Your grandchildren’s world?How do we become peacemakers?  Where do we start?  What helps you be peace filled? What has helped bring about reconciliation in your life?