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Friday, January 24, 2014

The Beatitudes - A Challenge

We've all read the Beatitudes, heard about them in homilies, and seen them on wall plaques. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus said:

"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."  

Here, Jesus is not negating the Ten Commandments. Instead, He is expanding the Commandments, and explaining them more clearly. He is challenging us to be bigger, better and holier. And what a challenge!

To be poor in spirit - to trust the Father in all things. That alone is difficult, since we tend to trust ourselves, our money, our leaders. We must get back to trusting the Father as Jesus did, even to the death. The Beatitudes build from there. For those that mourn, God will comfort them; again we are being asked to trust and have faith in the Father. Seek to be righteous, following the commandments and doing the will of the Father in all things. The righteous will be rewarded with heaven. Be merciful - really sympathize with others and feel what they feel, helping them as they need help. Be clean of heart to reap the reap the rewards of heaven.

As I said, the Beatitudes build on one another. Thus, one will not be comforted by God, if one is not poor in spirit. Only the poor in spirit will seek righteousness, or truly show mercy. Only the poor in spirit, righteous, and merciful can have a clean heart. If one follows the beatitudes as Jesus proclaims, one will be persecuted for being soft, being weak, being unrealistic, being a blind follower, being stupid. How wrong are the persecutors!

What's more, the greatest challenge, is that we are told to live ALL of these beatitudes EVERY DAY! It's not that today you are righteous, so that tomorrow you can be merciful. Think about that. All of them. Every day. Suddenly it doesn't seem so easy. Pray for God's grace, the only way we can live all of the Beatitudes every day.