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Center for Action and Contemplation

Be Peaceable, Be Free

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Beatitudes

Be Peaceable, Be Free
Friday, April 21, 2017

Guest writer and CAC teacher Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring Jesus’ eight blessings known as the Beatitudes.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” —Matthew 5:9

This Beatitude follows as the logical consequence of all that has been laid out so far. When our hearts are gentled and single, when we’ve tamed the animal instincts, we become peacemakers. We are no longer wielding the sword of the binary operator that divides the world into good guys and bad guys, insiders and outsiders, winning team and losing team. When the field of vision has been unified, the inner being comes to rest, and that inner peaceableness flows into the outer world as harmony and compassion. This is what we mean by contemplative engagement: right action in the world stemming from inner attunement. Only from the unified perception of the heart can we discern what action is required of us to lovingly and effectively serve our hurting planet.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:10

Jesus is not talking about martyrdom here, but about freedom. The Gospel of Thomas records this Beatitude with a slight but telling variation that captures the very essence of Jesus’ meaning here and in fact, throughout all the Beatitudes:

Blessed are you in the midst of persecution who,
when they hate and pursue you even to the core of your being,
cannot find “you” anywhere. [1]

Talk about freedom! Whatever this elixir of pure liberation may be, it is what the journey is all about. And it is attained gradually within us—distilled drop by drop from the terror and turmoil of our egoic selfhood—as we learn to let go and entrust ourselves to the Divine Mercy. Situations of persecution (or anything else that shakes us out of our egoic comfort zone) can become great teaching tools if we have the courage to use them that way.

Do the Beatitudes appear differently to you against this wisdom backdrop? In these eight familiar sayings we can now see that Jesus is talking about a radical transformation of consciousness, embraced through an attitude of inner receptivity; a willingness to enter the flow; a commitment to domesticate those violent animal programs within us; and above all, a passionate desire to unify the heart. This is a very powerful fourfold path. It has both a modern sensibility and a timelessness to it—not unlike the teaching you would hear today from the Dalai Lama and other great spiritual masters who have dedicated their lives to increasing the quality and quantity of human consciousness.

Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a pure heart, O God.

[1] The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 68, trans. Lynn Bauman (Oregon: Whiteland Press, 2002), 141.

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 46-47. 

Image credit: View from the Mount of Beatitudes, between Capernaum and Gennesaret, Israel.
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