The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven:
~Catechism of the Catholic Church~
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) begin Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and is considered by many to be the most important of His teachings. Saint Augustine wrote, in his Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, “Anyone who piously and earnestly ponders the Sermon on the Mount……….I believe he will find therein … the perfect standard of the Christian Life.” Jesus’ words are often taken literally and this may cause confusion or misunderstanding. With hope and in prayer that we may better understand His words as a guide to our own Christian living, let us take a brief look at these teachings.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Hebrew meaning of the word “poor” (Aniyie Haroaach- עניי הרוח) is humble or meek. The humble in spirit understand our need for God in all we have and do. Aware of this, we choose to detach from material riches in order to reach His Kingdom of comfort and peace.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Here, mourning represents a grief over sins we have committed. It also refers to our sadness over the suffering of others. We also mourn for the sins that have been committed against the earth God has created, destroying it with ingratitude and disrespect.
Considering self-pity and despair to be mourning, Saint Augustine warns us saying, “What of those who mourn “according to the flesh? They have troublesome and frightening consolations.”
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Those who humbly bow before God and are willing to be last, rather than first before others, will be blessed with peace. Some theologians believe that “inherit the earth” is a reference to the 36th Psalm, Verse 11 ~ Let not the foot of pride come upon me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
This psalm refers to the Promised Land of Israel.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Righteousness represents our love for each other. (John 13:34 ~ “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.) It is also representative of a desire for true morality and sanctity.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 25: 34-40
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…… I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
This Beatitude also calls to mind the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Saint Augustine wrote, “The eyes by which God is seen are within the heart….How foolish then are those who try to find God through the use of their bodily eyes!” The pure of heart are those whose hearts are innocent and free of selfishness and pride.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Peacemakers are those who live their lives in harmony with others and who work to restore peace between others where peace has been broken. Most importantly, peacemakers work to maintain peace between God and man.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I have read that the first seven Beatitudes are choices. We were given free will and we act with that will. For defending our faith, many have been martyred. Many have suffered in other ways. This last Beatitude, is telling us of the reward that await us for living and/or dying for the first seven.