“I give you the gift of the Kingdom.”
The 150 Fellows who participated in the Jesus Seminar rated certain gospel sayings and parables as to the likelihood of their having been factually said by Jesus. The ratings are as follows:
Red: That’s Jesus!
Pink: Sure sounds like Jesus.
Gray: Well, maybe.
Black: There’s been some mistake.
The object of these series of articles is to reflect on three of those found in Thomas’ gospel sayings that rate under “That’s Jesus!”.
“Jesus said: Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” –Thomas Gospel, Saying 54
The object of this particular article is to provide a reflection on Saying 54, which has a "That's Jesus!" rating.
“And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of these words shall not taste of death.” –Saying 1
If we interpret the gospel on the literal level, we will miss its teaching entirely. That’s what Saying 1 seems to imply. If we interpret the word “poor” literally, we would have lost the essence of the teaching.
Being poor in this context, I feel, is not necessarily someone who lives in material poverty. The poverty referred to can be experienced both by the poor and wealthy in our midst. I believe the requirement would be in terms of our attitude towards material possessions or earthly accomplishments.
If we are poor in spirit, we are detached from the trappings of external circumstances. We can be rich but know that everything has a transient nature and that our wealth can be taken away by a twist of fate any time so that hopefully we can learn to let go of attachment. We can be poor in terms of material endowments but understand that true happiness comes from within so hopefully, based on this, we learn to develop rich inner lives. We understand and feel compassion for those who are wealthy but to whom true happiness remains nothing short of elusive.
If we understand that everything has a transient nature and that only change is constant, we can probably learn to dedicate ourselves to the constant in change, to learn to live in the moment, ever present in the here and now.
Humility, Reverence, Faith, Gratitude, Openness
These are traits we can associate with Saying 54.
Humility. Understanding that God’s will is always done and everything happens according to His will, which is based on unconditional love for all beings, we strive not to insist on having things turn out differently than how they are manifesting and demanding for an immediate understanding of the justness of the situation. We seek to understand that our intellectual capacity is miniscule in comparison to what it takes to understand the grand scheme of things.
This trait is closely related to the practice of faith and gratitude (see below). When we are in close relationship with God, that is, we realize God’s presence in everything, and we experience a wellspring of gratitude for his blessings, we are humbled by his magnanimity considering that we don’t really see that something special in us for him to be magnanimous for.
The rest of the explanations are taken from: http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/ .
Reverence. “Reverence is the way of radical respect. It recognizes and honors the presence of the sacred in everything — our bodies, other people, animals, plants, rocks, the earth, and the waters. It is even an appropriate attitude to bring to our things, since they are the co-creations of humans and the Creator.
Nothing is too trivial or second class for reverence. But it has to be demonstrated with concrete actions. Don't abuse your body — eat right, exercise, get enough rest. Don't abuse the earth by being wasteful of its gifts. Protect the environment for your neighbors and future generations.
Reverence is also a kind of radical amazement, a deep feeling tinged with both mystery and wonder. Approaching the world with reverence, we are likely to experience its sister — awe. Allow yourself to be moved beyond words.”
Faith. “…It involves an awareness of and an attunement to God's presence in our everyday experiences.
Practicing faith, then, is like developing any relationship. You have to give it time and attention. It requires you to see, hear, feel, and constantly remember your partner — God. Have confidence in the relationship's viability, even when you are facing mysteries, doubts, and paradoxes. Trust in this faith, even to the point of staking your life on it.”
Gratitude. “The spiritual practice of gratitude has been called a state of mind and a way of life. But we prefer to think of it as a grammar — an underlying structure that helps us construct and make sense out of our lives. The rules of this grammar cover all our activities. Its syntax reveals a system of relationships linking us to the divine and to every other part of the creation.
To learn the grammar of gratitude, practice saying "thank you" for happy and challenging experiences, for people, animals, things, art, memories, dreams. Count your blessings, and praise God. Utter blessings, and express your appreciation to everything and everyone you encounter. By blessing, we are blessed.”
Openness. “It is important in the spiritual life to keep an open mind, open to ideas, experiences, people, the world, and the Sacred. Openness is an ability to go with the flow, as Taoism puts it, without expecting predetermined outcomes. It means being receptive to new possibilities, without prejudging them. It is an ability to make yourself available to out-of-the-ordinary opportunities. Indeed, openness to the unknown, the exotic, and the bizarre is usually seen as the mark of a free spirit.
You can increase your openness by practicing empathy. Move outside yourself into another's situation. Try to access the other's feelings and ideas. …”
A friend experienced a reversal of material fortune where job and career and the associated comfort and material trappings had to be relinquished. The friend found the reversal an extremely depressing situation for along with it, the experience of freedom that came with driving had to be relinquished and resorting to public transportation became the only mode of commute.
In contrast to a person who has been used to a lower standard of living, the friend had an extremely difficult time adjusting to the twist of fate. In this sense, being poor shows its advantage. The poor who has been so used to a difficult way of life does not require the usual amenities that we have and usually take for granted.
Humility. The friend would have been advantaged at the time if a profound understanding that everything happens according to God’s will was there.
Reverence and Openness. In a similar manner, a reverence for the situation or event could have made one open to insights.
Faith. As mentioned being closely related to humility, the friend may have simply just kept going, in faith that “even this will eventually turn out to be a blessing” and be in peace with the situation.
Gratitude. Sometimes gratitude for a seemingly negative event can only be realized in retrospect.
Mostly, it seems that these traits can only be learned hands-on, without any advance preparation. That is the beauty in life’s principle that we are repeatedly sent lessons that we still need to learn until we are able to learn them.
Incidentally, the friend I speak of is me.
“I give You the Gift of the Kingdom” –Jesus
Even if Jesus came in flesh and blood at the time when I had an extreme reversal of fortune, I might not have believed that he was gifting me with something even better than the material trappings that I associated with success.
Through the over two-decades’ worth of seemingly random experiences totally apart from the success that I thought I was before that reversal of fortune, I have come to be what I am. The past ‘misfortune’ took place to pave the way for the opportunity to pursue my passion and do soul work, which is what I consider a personal measure of success.
During my silent sitting, the ideas for this article kept coming back, despite my religiously practicing the required procedure of silently saying, “Thinking” to every thought that arose and going back to the breath.
Apparently, it was to make way for a final thought to be born: “I give you the gift of the Kingdom”.
A “That’s Jesus!” thought.
Eventually, the secret of Saying 54 is revealed in our lives: any attachment or expectation that we are able let go off, takes us closer to the kingdom.
A reversal of fortune can be opportunity for us to find the Kingdom; if we open our hearts and minds to Jesus, we will hear him say:
“My gift to you is the Kingdom of Heaven”.