- 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.
We have learned from the writings St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen (the two latter via the historical writings of Eusebius) that the Gospel of Matthew was the first Gospel ever written, and was first composed in the language of the Hebrew audience for whom it was originally intended. That being the case, this gospel, more than all the others, is specifically concerned with making the case that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and the fulfillment of Moses (Cf. Dt. 18:19).
In the instant case, Matthew draws a beautiful parallel between Moses’ sermon from the hillside of Mount Sinai and Jesus’ sermon on the mount. In the nineteenth chapter of Exodus YHWH calls upon the people to sanctify themselves and wash their garments before they receive His coming and the commands, while in Matthew it is John the Waymaker who calls the people out to the Jordan to be baptized in preparation of ‘the One’ who is the come. Whereas Moses descends from the mountain to give the commands, Jesus ascends to the mount to give His. After Moses gives the commands he then offers holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings and then ascends back up to the mountain (Exo. 24). After Jesus gives the commands he descends from the mountain to begin His journey to become the final sacrifice for peace.
Over the past fifteen hundred years alone, there have been tomes upon tomes written about Jesus’ Beatitudes. More often than not all of these writings begin with a comment on the Greek word makarios (mak-ar’-ee-os), which is usually translated ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ in English. Strong’s Concordance uses ‘supremely blessed’, ‘fortunate’, ‘well off’, ‘blessed’, and ‘happy’ as transliterations for the word markarios.
The commentaries on the Beatitudes usually go on to make the point how counter-cultural these commands from Jesus were then and even more so today. The better commentaries all make it clear that the Beatitudes are not a check-list of things to do today, and neither are they a list skills to acquire so-to-speak, or an ala’cart grouping of things to pick and choose from. On the contrary, the Beatitudes are a reality – they are something we become through the increasing presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. That is to say, that we don’t become the Beatitudes, they become us through the grace of God. More specifically, they become us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is slowly molding and shaping us into the perfect and holy image of Christ Jesus.
Indeed, those who prayerfully strive to Cooperate with God in this life with find that they are becoming more and more poor in spirit, meek, mournful at the sight of sin, thirsty and hunger for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted by the world, lied about, and joyfully glad that they are children of God.
Another very simple way to consider the beatitudes that offers deeper insight into its meaning comes by just reading them with an opposite emphasis:
- “Unhappy are those who are rich in the flesh, for theirs is the kingdom of Satan.
- Unblessed are they who are joyful at the sight of sin, for they will not be comforted.
- Unhappy are the prideful and arrogant, for they will be removed from the land.
- Unblessed are they who do not hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will never be satisfied.
- Cursed are the unmerciful, for they will not be shown mercy.
- Unblessed are the dirty of heart, for they will never see God.
- Unhappy are the warmongers, for they will be called children of Satan.
- Unblessed are they who are never persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Satan.
- Unhappy are you when everyone always has nice things to say to you and utter every kind word about you because of you do not stand for anything. Mourn and be displeased with yourself, for you will have no reward in heaven.”
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.