The Message of the Beatitudes

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” Matthew 5:1-12

What message did Jesus’ words sent to his listeners? What message do they send to our modern culture? In Jesus’ time, the heroes were warriors—those victorious in the Colloseum. In our time, heroes are those who have won wealth, success, and fame. Our heroes are the powerful.

“Blessed are the meek,” Jesus says. Not the arrogant, the overconfident, the overbearing, the self-serving. Not those who ruthlessly claw their way to power. The meek.

“Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus says. How can we reduce suffering? How much of our wealth and time can we give to offer help to those who need it—to joyfully do good, without judgment?

“Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus says. Our culture is violent and corrupt. Obscenity is celebrated. As individuals we long for wealth, recognition, and often-empty entertainments. Purity is disdained as naiveté. Yet, Jesus tells us to have pure hearts.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus says. While individually we can do little to bring about world peace, we can influence harmony instead of conflict. We can find areas of common ground. We can acknowledge others’ strengths. We can lay aside intentional rivalry. We can listen. We can forgive.

“Blessed,” Jesus says, “are the poor in spirit. Those who mourn. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Those who are persecuted.” These are the ones who suffer because of poverty and great loss. These are the ones despised and treated as outcasts. How can it be, then, that they are blessed? They are blessed because God has always comforted, attended to, and honored those who, though oppressed, live for him.

And so should we. That message is clear.

Rejoice and be glad.

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