The Gospel according to Matthew (5:1-12)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Reflection: What a way to begin His public ministry! This teaching of Jesus was brand new and must have left many people mesmerized. Jesus is now teaching a NEW moral law to a level never conceived of before. As the people listened to this new teacher speak with new authority and wisdom, they may have been excited and confused at the same time. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful and clean of heart, and to be a peacemaker could have been accepted. But why was it that being poor, mournful, and meek were considered blessings? And even more challenging, why was it good to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness or insulted and falsely accused because of Jesus? When Jesus’ new and radical teaching is clearly understood, it is not only His first disciples who may have been confused and excited at the same time. You, too, if you truly listen to His teachings and understand what He means, will find that you may be challenged to the core of your being. Jesus’ teaching must be embraced, fully, and without hesitation. All in All, Jesus was changing our “Attitude” with the “Beatitudes”.
The Beatitudes are our call to perfection. They lay out for us the path by which we travel to the heights of holiness and obtain the glory of Heaven. They are our fine-tuned and detailed road map to the fullness of happiness and joy. But they also call us to a radical transformation of our minds and in our actions. Yes, a new attitude on how we walked this earth. They are not “easily” embraced, in the sense that they require that we turn from every selfish tendency we have and choose to live free of every earthly temptation, attachment and sin. Perfection awaits those who listen to, understand, and embrace the Beatitudes.
Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, sums up the Beatitudes in his book “The Prodigal Son”; he says, “as long as we belong to this world, we will remain subject to its competitive ways and expect to be rewarded for all the good we do. But when we belong to God, who loves us without conditions, we can live as he does. The great conversion called for by Jesus is to move from belonging to the world to belonging to God. The compassion with which we are to love cannot be based upon a competitive lifestyle. It has to be this absolute compassion in which no trace of competition can be found. It has to be this radical love of enemy. We must become like the heavenly father and see the world through his eyes.”
Action of the Day: Try to find time to take each Beatitude to prayer. Ponder each Beatitude and spend time with the one most challenging to you. Our Lord has much to say to you through this sermon. Don’t hesitate to allow Him to lead you to the heights of holiness through it.