An Excerpt from The Hidden Power of the Gospels: Four Questions, Four Paths, One Journey by Alexander J. Shaia with Michelle Gaugy
“The wisdom teachings in Matthew contain such an abundance of sensible counsel that we would do well to keep them close. They are a poetic guide to the promises and the dangers that greet us on the first path. The recommendations and responses they hold are truly Be-Attitudes designed to move us forward. They challenge us to:
• “Accept that we do not and will not know results in advance. We often feel ‘poor in spirit.’
• “Make farewells to our yesterdays and embrace the grief we feel.
• “Be humble in our willingness to journey. Yielding to exile will yield riches of Spirit.
• “Know that our true hunger and thirst are for Spirit, and only Spirit, despite all trials and temptations.
• “Greet all we encounter, within and without, in mercy, and reap the rewards of gratitude. Recognize that mercy derives from merces, a Latin word that translates as ‘reward.’ (It continued into French as merci, meaning ‘thanks,’ or ‘gratitude.’)
• “Be full of heart. Do not seek to remove any thought, any feeling, or any person from our inner life. Each is an aspect of Spirit. Welcome them all.
• “Believe in ‘Jeru-Shalom’ as a home of welcome that accommodates the true peace of respect for differing voices, if we will but listen.
• “Accept inner and outer hardship as needed for the sake of living a new life in the presence of God. Power and applause are not what we seek. Our journey leads instead to humility and service.
• “Anticipate lack of esteem. Be prepared instead for conflict — and meet it with respect and love.
“The nine Beatitudes reflect diverse parts of a harmonious unity which I endlessly reflect and touch each other as we go through our lives. At the very heart of Jesus’s teachings, their practice opens us to compassion. If we are able to place these on our hearts, walk with them on our feet, hold them in our hands, and seal them in our thoughts, we will have more insight along our journey. They will become our walking staff and guide for the arduous times we will face.
“We can certainly find equal relevance in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. All of us have ‘heard it said’ — by parents, by friends, by society, by religious institutions — that we ought to ‘do this’ or ‘avoid that.’ Unreflectively, we may have accepted or rejected what we have heard. Jesus’s words ask us to become more conscious. He tells us that truth is not found on the surface. We are encouraged to explore the original purpose and meanings of the things we have been told, as well as their genuine truth and relevance in our hearts and lives today.
“We have talked about the risk of returning to older, seemingly simpler ways, but an equal peril lurks within this first path: the urge to rush in the opposite direction. Our ego-mind can just as readily deceive us into thinking that all of yesterday’s wisdom is empty folly — that nothing we have ever learned or been told has merit or benefit; that we are without guidance. Rejecting everything and racing off to the ‘new and better’ can be a sprint to isolation and despair. Either one of these extreme positions is only a trick, not a truth. Quadratos requires that we ignore these deceptions and dig deeper, explore further. Although many people and institutions have become protectors of empty practices, there are others who still hold truthful, living attitudes of heart. We are on a journey to discover which have real veracity for us and endeavor to claim them in our own personal way.”