Week Two: Mon. Feb 18 – Sunday Feb 24:
Beatitude Two: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Luke 20: 21 says: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”)
The Jesus Seminar gathers biblical scholars from around the world to evaluate the historical validity of early Christian texts. Its translation of the gospels (The Five Gospels: The search for the authentic words of Jesus, Polebridge Press, 1993) indicates that Beatitudes One, Two, and Four are likely to be close to the actual words of the historical Jesus, and the rest are probably inventions of early Christians. The consensus of the Jesus Seminar scholars is that in the Beatitudes, the more unexpected and contradictory to common assumptions the statement appears to be, the more likely it is that Jesus said it.
There were probably plenty of people on the Mount who were mourning and were not being comforted. Jesus’ words to them may have felt encouraging, or at least they commanded attention.
Station Three: Jesus falls for the first time as he carries his cross toward Golgotha.
St. Paul said: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2: 20) One way to understand the Stations of the Cross is to see them as leading us into an “out of ego” experience. Jesus fell off the pedestal of admiration that so many people had for him. The crucifixion was a total humiliation, an “ego-buster”.
Think of the many things that trip us along life’s way — we are “busted” as we fall over desire, greed, ambition, lust, anger, prejudice. It hurts when our egos are insulted, but perhaps it can take us to the very core of our being where we can find oneness with God. Where we can find that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”.
Station Four. Jesus encounters his mother, Mary, as he carries his cross.
Imagine the agony of Jesus’ mother as she encounters her son on his way to his death. It is a reminder of the pain of parenting and being parented, the shared suffering that almost always comes between mother or father and child. This suffering is universal — it is inseparable from the human condition. This Station invites us to explore our most important relationships, and meditate on the ways we can bring wholeness, healing, and fulfillment to them.
When and how have you grieved? What helped you, and what helps others, through this process? What doesn’t work in responding to people who grieve? How would you support Mary in her mourning for her son?
When and how have you fallen down? When have you had your ego broken? What was painful, and what, if anything, was positive as a result of that “fall”?
When Israel “fell” to the Roman occupation, what effect did that have on the national psyche? What happens when nations or groups of people are humiliated today? What can be done to help lift people up, if they have “fallen”?
What has remained unsaid, and undone, between you and your parents or siblings or children or friends, which needs to be resolved? What would you say, what would you do, if you could?
How can you be an instrument of healing and reconciliation in your family or circle of closest friends?
Meditation on your Lenten Action:
Where do you find resonance, meaning, and inspiration in these Stations, and in this Beatitude, in the course of your work of service or advocacy so far?
St. Paul says in I Corinthians 1:22-23: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Take a stone or block and draw on it images of what makes you and others fall… images of what humbles you… what “busts” your ego.
Introduction to this Guide (repeated each week)
LENT prepares us to encounter the mystery and power in the stories of the death and resurrection of the Christ. It is the time in the traditional Christian calendar to experience the transformative meanings of the Passion story. This guide focuses on the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and on the fourteen Stations of the Cross, which symbolize the events remembered on Good Friday.
The Beatitudes are recorded in Matthew chapter 5 and a shorter version in Luke chapter 20. The Sermon on the Mount begins with this manifesto of hope and promise. They introduce the heart of Jesus’ teaching to his followers. Jesus’ nine Beatitudes address the suffering which so many of his followers experienced in everyday life in Roman-occupied Israel. Luke’s shorter set of sentences is more focused on tangible poverty and oppression.
The Stations of the Cross are an old Catholic Christian tradition. They mark fourteen stages along the path from Jesus’ condemnation to death until his burial (Luke 23). To this day, many Catholic churches have statues or plaques installed inside their sanctuaries or outside in their gardens, each marking one of the Stations. They are more than a simple rendition of the story found in the gospels. Some of the Stations correspond to actual passages in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ Passion. But others have no corresponding verses in the New Testament. Jesus’ encounter with Veronica, for example, at Station number 6, is based on a legend that developed long after the biblical era. The Stations have always been evocative and interpretive, rather than simple historical representations. They remind us that we have great freedom to read new meanings into Christianity.
This guide invites you to walk with the Beatitudes and the Stations, a few steps at a time, through each of the weeks of Lent. It invites you to join in study, conversation, meditative prayer, artistic creativity, and compassionate action. It can be used for private devotion, for group study and practice, or for integration into study and worship in a church congregation.
This guide presumes that:
1) … the parts of the Passion and Easter stories that appear to be fanciful or supernaturalistic do not need to be taken literally in order for us to experience their extraordinary significance. The myth and poetry in these stories are portals into the realm of the soul. They provide us with essential structures of meaning, and guide us toward higher consciousness and greater compassion. “Just because something didn’t really happen doesn’t mean it isn’t really true!”
2) … the historical context of the Beatitudes and the Passion and Easter stories offers us a useful lens through which to interpret them. The social and political circumstances of Jesus’ time can serve as mirrors for us to reflect on the personal and public moral choices that lie before us today.
3) … the stories and traditions of Lent and Easter are many-layered. They meet us at historical, political, mystical, transpersonal, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic levels. You are invited to explore them all!
You are invited, as an individual or as a group, to commit to action for positive social change during Lent. This can take many forms: service to the homeless, working on a campaign, or many other types of charitable and/or advocacy work for the common good, whether as a volunteer or as a professional. It can be an ongoing work of service, or a short-term commitment during the weeks of Lent. (See the “links” at www.beatitudessociety.org for suggestions of organizations in which you can become involved.) Each week, this guide invites you to reflect on your experiences and observations in the course of this work.
Recommended books to accompany this Lent study:
Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (Paperback)
by Marcus J. Borg (Harper One, 2008)
Campaign Boot Camp: Basic Training for Future Leaders (Paperback)
by Christine Pelosi (Polipoint Press, 2007)
The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’s Final Week in Jerusalem (Hardcover)
by Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan (Harper One, 2006)
Jesus: A New Vision by Marcus Borg (Harper One, 1991)
The Five Gospels: The search for the authentic words of Jesus, by the Jesus Seminar (Polebridge Press, 1993)