In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Every parent wants what is best for their children and God wants what is best for us. You may ask, “What is best for us?” Well, we can say that peace in our lives is a good place to start. That we are here in this sacred and holy place, in the house of God, experiencing the peace which He alone can give is hope for us outside these walls. We lose are sense of peace when we are out in the world. There is so much going on, so much that requires our attention, that physical, spiritual and emotional peace often eludes us. Here in this place, we experience the peace of heaven, a peace which can only come from living our lives in God through Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells us that no one gets through the Father except through the Son. That means that we cannot experience God’s peace unless we have Christ in our lives, for Jesus is the face of the Father. When we look upon Christ, we see the Father. Christ is the image of the Father made visible and it is through Him that we have the confidence and knowledge that God loves us with a love that never fails.
Moses went up to Mount Sinai and came down with the Ten Commandments to begin us on our journey to God. In Galilee, Jesus went up to the mountain and taught the Beatitudes to reveal fully how we can enjoy the peace of heaven by knowing the heart of God.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus is praising certain values and attitudes and telling us that if we have these attitudes, we will be close to God, we will be blessed. If we want to know what the heart of God is like, we need look no further than the Beatitudes. Once we know what the heart of God is like, we are invited by the Beatitudes to imitate the heart of God.
Some of the Church Fathers tell us that God became man in Christ so that we would become more like God. The Beatitudes teach us how to become more like God, how to reflect the goodness and beauty and truth of God in our lives; to acquire God’s heart as our own.
It is true that the qualities and virtues praised in the Beatitudes are in many ways contrary to what is exalted and praised in the world. This only tells us how far the world is from the heart of God. Just a quick and simple glance around us and we can see clearly how far off the track we have gone. Our world has succumbed to the heresy of relativism. Love as we know it is not the love of God which should reign in the hearts of all men. The love we experience in the world is a man-made love, one that has a totally different origin and dynamic. The love embraced by and spread throughout the world does not have its origins and foundation in the heart of God. It is a false love, a love that deceives and does not console, comfort, or make happy.
In the Beatitudes, the heart of God is revealed to us and we are given the opportunity to make that heart our own. God’s heart is true; it is faithful and never fails in its unconditional love. The Beatitudes reveal the great depth of God’s love for mankind and what we can expect when we make God’s heart our heart.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I once heard this beatitude translated as: “Blessed are those who have to rely on God for every breath they take.” This beatitude is not praising economic poverty but rather poverty in spirit, a total dependence upon God for everything. In this beatitude, God is praising those who rely on Him and promises them a reward, ‘the kingdom of God is theirs.”
In the other beatitudes, the reward is in the future, “they will be comforted,” “they will inherit the land,” “they will be satisfied.” But in this first beatitude, the reward is now, “the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” This is surely because those who are poor in spirit are those among us who cling to God, who are one with Him and have made His heart their heart. They are so intimately united with God that even now they are experiencing something of the peace of heaven here on earth.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We normally understand mourning associated with physical death but this beatitude also means mourning for our sins and the sins of others, so it praises repentance. We mourn for our sins and the sins of others because they are an offense against God. This beatitude tells us we already enjoy blessedness if we mourn sins, but the full enjoyment or reward will be in the future, ‘they will be comforted.”
The Greek word in Matthew’s Gospel which is translated as “comfort” is much more beautiful than comfort. It really means that God will be at our side. Blessed are you if you mourn your sins and the sins of others, God will be by your side to console and comfort you. The full reward for this beatitude is in the future because it will be only at the Last Judgment that we will see how God can bring good out of evil, and on that day, God will be with us, at our side, to comfort and console us.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The meek are not just those individuals who are obedient, timid, non-confrontational, etc. They are rather people who have the goodwill to change a bad situation into one that is good. People who are meek do not use violence because they do not return evil to evil. A coward can use violence but the meek are not cowards; they are courageous and transform and recreate a situation peacefully. This is what we see in the life of Jesus. In Gethsemane, when Jesus was being arrested, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant but Jesus put his ear back on and healed it immediately (Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10). Later, in Matthew’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, “Take My yoke upon You and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matthew 11:29).
The meek will inherit the earth. These are the children of God who, being fruitful and multiplying their conduct the world over, will change the world for the better and establish and strengthen God’s reign over the earth. The meek will not use violence but rather the heart of God to change the world; they shall be the leaders of nations and local governments, establishing and strengthening the Kingdom of God on earth. Because of them, peace shall prosper and spread throughout the nations of the earth and unite all peoples together in the heart of God.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Those who are righteous are in a right relationship with God. We could say that they are holy. Whenever there is some social situation established on a false foundation it does not reflect the beauty and truth and goodness of God. We hunger and thirst for these false situations to be rectified and justified because we are concerned not only with our personal relationship with God but we want the best for all people. God wants to bless us not only as individuals but He wants to bless society as well so that it reflects more the heart of God. Therefore, when there is anything ungodly in society, such as abortion, hatred, poverty, child abuse, rape, drug abuse, sexual addiction, pornography, etc., we hunger and thirst for righteousness.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” We all stand in need f God’s mercy, but instead of waiting for God to be merciful to us first, this beatitude praises those who act like God by showing mercy to others now. God is merciful and this beatitude praises those who act like God. When we forgive we transform and recreate. Giving mercy changes a situation from one that is ungodly to one that is godly. We can see this in the Latin word for mercy, “Misericordia.” It means moving our heart (cor) to the miserable situation (miseria) of another, in that way helping them to become once more the image of God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The word “pure” used in Matthew’s Gospel is also used to describe the purifying rituals of the Jews, so a pure or clean heart is not just a heart free of impure thoughts but a heart that has been cleansed, consecrated, and made ready to receive God’s holiness. All worldly attachments have been removed from such a heart so it is ready to receive the presence of God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Jesus, the Son of God, is called the Prince of Peace because He made peace between God and us by the shedding of His Blood on the Cross. We also are peacemakers when we try to bring people closer to God and in that sense we are the children of God. Being a peacemaker involves a great deal of work. It takes patience, humility, charity, perseverance, fortitude, courage and a host of other virtues to bring about peace. It is a noble work but one which is frequently frustrated by human failings and weaknesses and the vices of egos and lust for power and control. But those who pursue peace are truly the children of God, for they know and understand the heart of God. They know that the only way humans can live together in peace is by adopting the heart of God, of making it their own. This means that every person must divest themselves of all that is ungodly, of all that is contrary to the life of Christ, and gird themselves with the garments of light and salvation.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for there is the kingdom of heaven.” This beatitude, and the next following, praises those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel. Only persecution for the sake of righteousness and for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel are said to be blessed by this beatitude. Jesus was physically tortured during His Passion and this beatitude praises those who carry wounds of any type for their love of righteousness and goodness. This beatitude praises those who can identify with Christ through suffering for what is right and just. We should never shy away for taking a stand against evil and injustice. We must defend all that is good and holy and pleasing to God. We must be willing to accept ridicule and persecution for what is right and just in the eyes of God. We are not put on this earth to please men but to please God and Him alone.
“Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets before you.” What greater joy can there be in our lives than to be shunned and reviled and hated for the sake of Christ and His Gospel? Too many people today are afraid of being Christians. They are afraid to defend the name and honor of Jesus Christ for fear of being ridiculed and persecuted. If you have not noticed, Christ is not very popular in the world today.
Many people seek to rid themselves of Christ’s presence and influence in their lives and in the public square. To be a disciple, and not merely a follower of Christ, is not something many people list as one of their descriptive character traits. To be a person of faith, a truly religious person, is not popular in society today. Many people see being a disciple, even a mere follower of Christ, to be a liability in their pursuit of professional and personal advancement.
Many people fear Christ. They believe that the way of living He advocates is totally incompatible with how society moves and functions today. They see Christ as being insignificant and irrelevant, so they choose to ignore Him. Many go even further: they have learned to despise and hate Him. And why is this? It is because they fear Him and because they know in their hearts that no matter what they do, they cannot prevail over Him. The more they try, the more they hate Him and everything that has to do with Him. This is one of the reasons people hate and despise the Church so much, because they know that they cannot prevail against it and this infuriates them. It is a vicious cycle in their lives. They become obsessed with attacking and destroying the Church but no matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, they fail in their efforts, and this makes them all the more angry. So what happens? They try even harder the next time to achieve the impossible. Christ promised when He founded the Church that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. Yet, millions of people throughout the world have joined the army of the evil one to fight His futile war against the Kingdom of God on earth.
It is sad that so many people expend so much of their time and energy seeking the Church’s destruction and the elimination of Christ from the human experience because in the end, they wasted much of their life in a worthless and futile endeavor. And all they have for their efforts is unhappiness, a life of anger and frustration and unfulfilled expectations and dreams. Such a waste!
But those who remain faithful, even if they should be reviled and hated by their fellow men because of Christ, His Gospel and His Church, are the one who obtain all that they seek; for God truly His faithful ones with great riches and abundant blessings. I do not know about you, but I would rather suffer the greatest indignities for the sake of Christ, the Gospel and the Church and be shunned by my neighbors because of them, then to live a life filled with empty pursuits, false happiness, and deceit.
The Beatitudes give us a clear and beautiful picture of what the life of a true disciple of Jesus Christ is and how, by adopting the heart of God, our lives can be truly happy not only in the world to come, but in this world as well. I encourage you, beloved, to make the Beatitudes a part of your life. You will be surprised just how happy and fulfilled you will be.