Week Four: Monday, March 4 – Sunday March 10:
Beatitude Four: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.”
It’s hard to hunger and thirst for particular items of food or drink unless you can imagine what they taste like. We’ve all had the experience of being told that some favorite food was about to be served, and before even seeing it or smelling it, our mouths begin to water.
So it is with the kingdom of heaven on earth. If we can imagine it, we can begin to taste it even before it is fully present before us. If we can taste it in our minds’ eyes, if we can salivate for it in our minds’ mouths, we will seek it assiduously.
If we can work up a strong enough hunger and thirst for justice, we’ll pursue it past all obstacles. Martin Luther King was hungry for liberation from racist segregation. Cesar Chavez was thirsty for decent wages and working conditions for farmworkers. They stayed hungry and thirsty long enough to change the world.
Station Seven: Jesus falls a second time on his way to Golgotha.
Imagine the stone on which Jesus tripped as he walked to his crucifixion. Imagine what blocks your path, what gets in the way of wholeness and fulfillment for you. Jesus said (Matthew 21: 42-44) that the stone of stumbling would become the cornerstone, the most important stone in the building of the new Kingdom of Heaven. As we are all one in the Christ, Jesus’ words offer the promise that our stones of stumbling can be used to build a new life on the other side of the cross.
Station Eight: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
Jesus met a group of women of Jerusalem who were weeping for him. He told them they should instead be weeping for their city. He predicted its destruction, which happened in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem after a massive Jewish revolt. Jesus seemed to see his own story, his own suffering, in a wider context. He had a sense of history and of his place in it. Something much larger than the fate of his life was at stake.
How are you hungry and thirsty for justice? What positive changes in society make you salivate?
How does your spirituality, your relationship with God, affect your striving for the common good?
What is now getting in the way of your goals for your life? What stumbling block prevents you from getting where you want and need to go?
How might it be transformed into the building block of a new life for you? How can you transform this thing that knocks you down into something that builds you up?
What spiritual “calluses” do you have from the downfalls in your life? How do past hurts and wrongs get in the way of your life today? How can you release them and recover from them?
What larger historical and social drama gives context for your life?
How are you changing history, and how would you like to change it?
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?
Make a collage from magazine images, using tear-shaped cutouts of pictures that illustrate the wrongs in society, and in your own life, that you hunger and thirst to make right. You might make them in the shapes of items of food or drink.
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)