The Beatitudes: Matthew 5: 1-12
5″Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In Matthew’s Gospel 5: 1-12, we see Jesus as the New Lawgiver who has come to replace the old Lawgiver, Moses. But unlike Moses, Jesus speaks with the actual mouth of God. He is not just a prophet of old, He is the actual living, breathing, Word of God. He has come to bring a message of comfort to the ‘anawim,'( the poor and marginalized people of the time.) During this time period, there was a mindset among those in religious power, that the poor and suffering , were suffering due to their sinfulness, due to their uncleanliness and their separation from God. Jesus came to tell the people that this was not so. He came to tell all that we are to seek a spiritual happiness that can only be attained upon leaving this world. He came to share the Blessings, or Beatitudes of God with us.
The phrases that Jesus used are familiar to the Old Testament, but the way He used them in the Sermon elevated them to a new level of teaching. In the Beatitudes He presented a new set of ideals that we are to strive for. Ideals that focus on love and humility instead of force and extortion. The Beatitudes teach us about compassion. They are the acts that result from a grace filled soul. They lead us to heaven.
The excellence of the Beatitudes is explained by Saint Thomas in these words: “[T]hose things which are set down as merits in the beatitudes are a kind of preparation for, or disposition to, happiness, either perfect or inchoate: while those that are assigned as rewards may be either perfect happiness, so as to refer to the future life, or some beginning of happiness, such as is found in those who have attained perfection, in which case they refer to the present life. Because, when a man begins to make progress in the acts of the virtues and gifts, it is to be hoped that he will arrive at perfection, both as a wayfarer, and as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom.”
If we view the Beatitudes as a guide to living, as we do the Ten Commandments…if we try to live with meekness and mercy in our hearts, our temporal end will bring no great surprise. We should be living with a grace filled soul here on earth, so death would be little more than a lifting of the veil that separates us from the Beatific Vision. But, in the history of man,only a few rare souls have been able to do this. More often than not, we shut out these graces; these means of attaining perfection. Because we are so busy viewing them with worldly glasses, we fail to look at them with the ‘rose-colored‘ glasses that a graced filled heart would provide; that a glimpse of heaven would provide. And so we die, not perfect; yet still in a state of grace; but faced with time in Purgatory…a sort of remedial school for God’s ill prepared saints.
As we face our day to day struggles on this earth, with throngs of people shouting and screaming about human rights and earthly desires, that seem hell bent of robbing us of our divine inheritance, stand firm. Remember, their efforts will be fruitless. Keep your hearts and souls focused on God… Do not let the secular crowds of this world drag you down! We have learned from the martyrs; and all those persecuted saints before us; that persecution serves as a means of strengthening the Church. Remember, the blood of martyrs blossoms new growth in the True Church. As we prepare ourselves for the upcoming Lenten season and the turmoil that is rift throughout the lands…let the message of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount help prepare us for what lies ahead. Both Temporally and Spiritually.