Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Ninth Beatitude

Some years ago I was working on a book and included a bit from today's first reading. In it, Paul is quoting something Jesus said--but which never made it into the Gospels, not even in Matthew's long list of Beatitudes, where it would seem to fit best: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

A consultant (reviewing the manuscript to make sure that it was on target for the age group) expressed some concern. As a therapist, she had too much experience with patients, particularly women, "maxing out" on self-giving to the point of allowing themselves to be exploited. "Is that really in the Bible?" Oddly, her question shows just how counter-intuitive the Gospel can be.

Lately I have been attending a book study on Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. The author answers the popular assumptions of our day about the ruinous effects of religion, noting that most of those who claim that society would be better off without religion seem to assume that society's values (care for the weak and the poor, protection of the vulnerable, defending the victims of crime and violence, etc) are basic human values; a shared heritage of human nature across all boundaries of time and space. Even a few recent newspaper articles should be enough to dismiss that notion (see paragraph 6 here for some examples from a culture that did not arise from Chritianity).

No, fallen human nature does not really consider it "more blessed to give than to receive." We needed to be taught that by the one who "knows what is in the human heart" (see Jn. 2: 25) and who is the "origin and perfecter of our faith" (see Heb. 12:2). His words "consecrate us in the truth" (today's Gospel) about God's creative intention for us.

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