ColumnsNaming Grace

The blessedness of the beatitudes

When visiting over Christmas vacation, our 9-year-old granddaughter, Ellie, crawled into bed with me. Born at just 2 pounds, 4 ounces, Ellie struggles to keep weight on and shivers through most of winter. I gladly lifted the comforter, drew her in and wrapped her in my arms. When Ellie awoke, she jumped up to join her siblings for breakfast, announcing, “I slept with Mimi last night!” Though having been cold, she felt blest to have snuggled with grandma.

I have always prayed for our children and grandchildren to be blessed—petitioning favor and protection—but after reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel, I wonder. This familiar passage from the Sermon on the Mount portrays blessedness in direct relationship with the beatitudes. So, in my heart of hearts, I ponder: Do I really want our children and grandchildren to be blessed? Do I want them to experience poverty, grief, lowliness, insults and persecution?

In the previous chapter of Matthew, we read “great crowds” were following Jesus, because “he was curing every disease and illness among the people” (Mt 4: 23). I begin to imagine Jesus preaching and the hillside blanketed with men, women and even children who have been humbled by life—those in absolute need of a refreshing word or a healing touch.

These were the people who would now occupy neonatal intensive care units, cancer centers, unemployment lines, nursing homes, homeless shelters, rehab clinics, funeral homes and refugee camps. These are the sick, the poor, the lowly, the grieving and the bullied. Yet life’s losses and difficulties do not automatically lead to blessedness. Rather, the beatitudes teach us the truly blessed are those who humbly acknowledge their need and are open to God’s presence.

I would never wish sickness, poverty, persecution or discrimination on anyone, much less my precious grandchildren. But I do want them to understand, especially in the midst of trials, God draws close to the poor in spirit like a “hen gathering her chicks under her wings” (Mt 23:37). As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s comforting presence—when a child is lonely, by embracing her and whispering, “Jesus is close to you,” or when a child is sick, by cooling his brow and reminding, “Jesus cares deeply and will strengthen you.”

My prayer is for our grandchildren to live the beatitudes as peacemakers: kind, meek, merciful, pure of heart and righteous. I pray they seek the Lord each day, knowing they can do nothing on their own and may boast of nothing except Jesus Christ. And when life hands them difficulties—from birth through old age—I pray they will trust in God’s presence and know of their blessedness.

I woke up this morning chilled and immediately thought of Ellie, wishing we could warm one another. Being born prematurely, life has given Ellie many challenges, but she has been blessed with a tenacious spirit and loving, faith-filled parents. I pray Ellie will be blessed all the days of her life with God’s closeness (especially when Mimi isn’t near) to warm her—body and soul. Now, that’s good news!

What blessings do you pray for your children or grandchildren?

How have you experienced blessedness in the midst of difficulties?