Beatitude Three: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
The word “meek” might better be interpreted as “gentle” or “considerate”. In the first century, such an attitude might prevent you from getting in trouble with authorities, but it was doubtful that Jesus’ audience on the Mount could see much evidence that gentleness would gain much more of a reward. All around them was proof of the earth-dominating power of brute force.
How could there be such a glorious payback for behaving humbly and thoughtfully? It might have seemed impossible. And yet it was, and still is, tantalizing to consider the possibility that kindness and consideration for others could have such a powerful, positive effect.
Station Five: Simon of Cyrene is ordered to carry the cross for Jesus.
Simon of Cyrene was visiting Jerusalem from Africa — he was there to celebrate Passover. The Romans built their empire on slave labor. They had a law that allowed their soldiers to press anyone into temporary service, to carry a load for a soldier or to do day labor for imperial purposes. Simon was drafted on the spot to carry the cross for Jesus, who, after being beaten severely, was too weak to carry it himself.
Station 6: Veronica wipes Jesus’ face with a cloth as he passes by.
This legendary story says that a woman named Veronica, whose name in Latin means “true image”, wiped Jesus’ face with a cloth as an act of compassion, and in so doing an image of his sweaty and bloody face was left on the cloth, which became a legendary religious relic in the Middle Ages. (There is no mention of Veronica in the biblical Passion narratives.) This Station invites us to seek the true image of the Christ in ourselves and the people around us.
What does it mean to be “meek”? What kind of humility is real and appropriate, and what kind demeans the soul?
Have you seen incidents where humility and consideration have had powerful, positive effects?
Who does our dirty work in America? Where do the people who do our dirty
work come from — what do we owe them?
And who else carries our cross? What do we owe the people who work under terrible conditions in third world countries to produce the goods that stock our stores?
When have you encountered the Christ in another person? What was that encounter like?
The “true image” in the Veronica legend was that of a blood-stained, suffering human face. To what degree does suffering expose our “true image”?
What or who is God, anyway? Is God omnipotent? Does God cause or allow suffering?
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?
Take a mirror and draw a cartoon image of Jesus on it, with an erasable marking pen. Then hold up the mirror so that you, and others, can see the image of the Christ in their own faces.
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)