The Beatitudes

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When he was about thirty years old. Jesus began his public life by being baptized in a preparatory rite by St. John in the Jordan River.  When he was baptized, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and rested above Jesus, and a voice from the heavens said:  "This is my beloved Son.  My favor rests on him." (Mt 3:16-17)  Following his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he prayed and fasted for forty days and overcame the devil's temptations.

After this, Jesus set out to preach the Good News of God's Kingdom.  He was a teacher, a reformer, and a miracle worker, and he was the perfect living example of everything he taught.  He even raised the dead to life.  He taught everywhere: in the fields, on the roads, on the hillsides, in the synagogues, by lakes, and even from a boat.  He often taught in parables, using for examples things people used and saw every day, from the lilies of the field to the sparrows of the air.

Jesus didn't come to abolish the Old Law but to fulfill it with the New.  He built on the Ten Commandments and the "You shall not" prohibitions by giving positive exhortations to live the Christian life.  Among these exhortations are those called the eight Beatitudes.  They sum up the blessings and joys in store for people who follow Jesus and his way of life.  A beatitude is a blessing or special happiness of a spiritual nature.

Jesus emphasized that these blessings are open to everyone, no matter how poor or uneducated or sick or unwanted a person may be.  This contradicted the Scribes and Pharisee, who taught that poverty or bad health was a punishment and a sign of God's disfavor.

The Beatitudes

1.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
The poor in spirit are those who may have material possessions but who are ready to give them up when self-sacrifice is called for.  They value heavenly treasure above everything else and never lose sight of it.  You may remember the rich young man who turned away from following Jesus because this man was attached to his many possessions.  The poor in spirit do just the opposite: when Jesus calls, they leave all things to follow him.  Because their hearts are not filled with things of earth, God fills their hears with himself.

2.  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Mourning, in the Beatitude, means sorrow for sin and sorrow over the loss, by separation or by death, of someone dear to us.  Jesus promises the sorrowful that they will get the strength they need to stand firm in their trials and troubles and even to grow through their sorrows in their friendship with God.

3.  "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
The meek are those who are truly humble and kind.  They don't think of themselves as being better than other people.  They accept and recognize the gifts God has given them with gratitude and patience and without complaint.

4.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Blessed is the heart that wants what God wants!  If we desire to be righteous and holy, Jesus will help us and our desire will be fulfilled.  Jesus promises joy to those who do God's will.

5.  "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
Mercy is love shown to the unlovable and to those who have been unjust and ungrateful.  The merciful forgive others their offenses.  They, in turn, will receive mercy from God.  Jesus said: "If you forgive the faults of others, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours." (Mt 6:14)

6.  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
The pure in heart are those who live chaste lives and are free of all excessive love of earthly things.  They have put God first in their lives.  Because they are single-hearted, they can feel God's presence in this life and will see him face to face in the next.

7.  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."
Psalm 132 begins: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity."  Peacemakers go out of their way to remove the obstacles that keep men apart.  They work especially hard to bring sinners back to God.  Jesus promises that peacemakers will be God's special children here on earth and will enjoy heavenly glory in the family of the saints.

8.  "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Jesus suffered everything to witness to the truth.  If we are persecuted because we are loyal to Jesus and his Church, we will know a little of what he suffered on the Cross to free us from sin and death.  But we will also share in the joy of his Resurrection, his gift of eternal life with God.

The eight Beatitudes are the counsels of the New Testament; instead of being prohibitions, they are positive exhortations to live in intimacy with Jesus Christ.  Each has attached to it a promise of great rewards.    Perhaps you have been thinking how difficult this is - how impossible, even, for human strength alone to live up to.  You're right - it is hard! 

That is why Christ has left us a great source of divine power in the Holy Eucharist.  If we take the Commandments and the Beatitudes seriously and desire to live up to the, we will feel the call to unite ourselves to Christ by receiving the Holy Eucharist often - perhaps even daily.  And we will be well on our way to living the authentic Christian life.

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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