“I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; whence shall help come to me?” This very first verse in our Psalm mirrors the cry of Black Americans today. In fact, people around the world are wondering the same thing – from where will their help actually come? And for God’s sake, when? As a white American and a Christian person, I, too am asking these questions. Looking at the centuries of suffering endured by Black people in this country, it feels difficult – even as a person of faith – to truly believe the Psalmist when he offers assurance of God’s protection for those who cry out for help. When we see the lives of Black people snuffed out before our very eyes, it does not seem as if God is guarding the most vulnerable among us. Adding insult to the literal injury of peaceful protestors, the word of God and gospel of Christ that we proclaim as ultimate Truth are sullied by those at the very highest levels of power in this country. Where is God’s protection, we ask? The gospel today has a lot to say about that and, not surprisingly, it points directly to how we live as Christians.
In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reinterprets the Law of Moses for his disciples and in doing so, describes God’s promises to come. Jesus’s disciples were, in effect, his students. They were learning from him the very heart of God – and so are we. When I read the passage for the first time this week, this verse stood out to me differently than it had before, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” In first century Palestine, it was believed that the heart was the origin of thought and intention, as well as our moral compass. It definitely made me ask myself, are my thoughts and intentions are “pure”? I admit, with all that is going on in the world, I wasn’t feeling particularly well-intentioned in that moment! This verse also begs the question of how we are remembering to orient ourselves on the side of those receiving God’s own preferential option – the poor (in spirit), the mourning, and the meek? How are we ourselves seeking righteousness and peace as well as demonstrating mercy to all?
When I talk to Seattle University students who are taking part in these protests that affirm that Black Lives Matter, I learn more about how to stand quite literally on the side of the oppressed. May that we all learn how to hunger and thirst for righteousness so that from every direction, we come to the aid of those who are crying out to God in our suffering and unjust world.