How blessed we are to be living during the coronavirus! That probably sounds crazy to you, and you’d be right, according to fleshly thinking. My crazy way of saying we’re blessed to be living during COVID-19 is inspired by the Beatitudes, which were read for today’s Gospel reading during the Divine Service. The Beatitudes sound crazy to fleshly thinking.
For example, Matthew 5:4 and 5:6 for my purpose today say, respectively, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The crazy thing of these two Beatitudes, according to our fleshly thinking, is: “How can a person be blessed when they mourn and when they hunger and thirst for righteousness?”
The first vital thing to be understood here is that at this beginning portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He is not speaking to the crowd but directly to His disciples. “Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him” (5:1). Thus, these Beatitudes are for God’s people, not for unbelieving ears who do not have the ears to hear (cf. Matthew 11:15).
The second vital thing—and the whole point of me writing this for All Saints’ Day—is that the Beatitudes do not describe commandments but the status of Christ’s disciples coram Deo (before God) in Him. Too often, Christians turn the Beatitudes into commandments. Thus, they say, “I’m going to be poor in spirit today so Jesus will bless me with the kingdom. I’m going to be meek today so Jesus will give me the inheritance of the earth. I’m going to be merciful today so I can receive mercy in return,” and so on. The Beatitudes are not commandments, but blessings, hence, “Blessed are those…”
The Beatitudes are not a list of commands for you to do but a list of who you are in Christ. These words are spoken to Christ’s disciples on the mountain; thus, these words are also spoken to you, Christ’s chosen saints. These words were also spoken to the saints who have gone before us who are peacefully slumbering in the arms of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14-16). Because of whom Christ has made you to be in Him, you are poor in spirit, mournful, lowly (not meek, according to the Greek word used, πραεῖς [praeis]); hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker, persecuted, and reviled.
These statuses of the saints before God describe a present reality while also promising the eschatological reality. By faith, Christ has made you poor in spirit; therefore, He will give you the kingdom of heaven. Because of who you are in Christ, you mourn over your poor sins; therefore, Christ shall give you everlasting comfort in His kingdom. In Christ, you are lowly; therefore, you shall receive His inheritance of the earth and, furthermore, become great in the land (cf. Mary’s Magnificat of God’s exalting of the humble [Luke 1:48, 52]).
Because you are Christ’s saint, you hunger and thirst for righteousness, which is satisfied both now in the Eucharist and shall be fully satisfied in the coming of God’s kingdom (cf. Revelation 7:16). Because you have received Christ’s mercy, He has made you merciful as you also forgive the sins of others (cf. Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 17:3-4). As a saint, Christ has made you pure in heart; therefore, you shall see God (cf. 1 John 3:3). As a saint, you have received the peace of God; therefore, you also seek peace and have become a child of God (cf. 1 John 3:1-2).
Because Christ has made you His saint, you are persecuted for the sake of the righteousness He has graciously given you; therefore, the kingdom of heaven is yours. Still, you are blessed when you are persecuted and reviled falsely on Christ’s account because of who you are in Him; therefore, rejoice and be glad, for you have been given the kingdom of heaven, which you receive not because you “do” these things but because of whom Christ has made you in Him.
Thus, as we see, the Beatitudes cause a great reversal of our fleshly thinking—what it means to be blessed—because of the Great Reversal of your status before God through Christ’s gracious and meritorious work for you in His death and resurrection. As saints whose status before God has been greatly reversed because of Christ, therefore, our thinking is also greatly reversed.
In the world’s fleshly thinking, you are blessed if you have wealth and good health. In Christly thinking, you are blessed because of whom God has made you in Christ: children of the Almighty Father, even in spite of your lack of wealth or health. For your blessing depends not on the transient things of this world, but on the eternal God.
It is from this great reversal of who we are as saints of Christ that I say the crazy beatitudinal thing: Blessed are we who live during the coronavirus! Why are you, O fellow saint, blessed during this pandemic? Because although you mourn, you shall be comforted. And although you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you shall be satisfied.
You Are Blessed Despite Your COVID Mourning
Whatever COVID-19 specifically causes you to mourn, you are blessed because of who you are in Christ. Because Christ has made you His saint, you have the promise that you shall be comforted, both now and forevermore. You are blessed now because as a member of the Body of Christ (the church), “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort… comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:4-5).
Your comfort comes from the message of reconciliation with God through Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father. Your comfort comes from the Word of Christ. And with this comfort you receive from God the Father through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, you are then also able to comfort your fellow saints in their suffering and afflictions. And, ultimately, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be [the great multitude’s] shepherd… and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17a, c).
You Are Blessed because Your Hunger & Thirst for Righteousness is Satisfied
During these unique times, you are blessed as you hunger and thirst for righteousness in two ways. First, that because of the pandemic, we learnt just how great a gift the Eucharist is with Christ’s true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine to forgive us our sins in thought, word, and deed, both done and undone. Thus, our hunger and thirst for the righteousness within these elements has intensified, causing us to remember the blessing the Lord gives us through these corporeal, real means. And second, that when you do partake the Eucharist, your hunger and thirst for righteousness is satisfied through Christ’s body and blood.
You are also blessed despite these times because of your saintly, baptismal identity in Christ. To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water [the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-4). Eschatologically, your thirst for righteousness shall be eternally satisfied upon Christ’s glorious return, “and He will guide them to springs of living water” (Revelation 7:17b), this living water we shall eternally drink from in the River of Life running through the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1).
Presently, you are blessed because of your baptismal identity. Through these waters, “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). And this points to the great, multicultural multitude of saints with whom we shall stand, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
You are Blessed because You Get to Proclaim Christ
Even more, as saints, you are blessed despite COVID because you get to proclaim Christ during a time when people desperately need Him. You get to say the crazy thing with me, “Blessed are you who live during the coronavirus, ‘For [the Lord] will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from deadly pestilence… [In Christ] you will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday’ [Psalm 91:3, 5-6]! All these things shall pass away! But the Word of the Lord shall remain forever [Mark 13:31]! And those who abide in Christ, who is the Word of God made flesh, shall abide in Him for all eternity as this pestilence fades into the obscurity of history with the rest of evil [John 15:4-6]!”
Amen, amen, amen.