A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 5:1-12A
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 He began to teach them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
12A Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Reflection: The Beatitudes
The Sermon on the Mount starts with the teachings of Jesus on the eight Beatitudes, a list of inner attitudes that a disciple must have in order to inherit the Kingdom of God. The list includes:
1. Poverty in spirit
Poverty should not only be viewed in terms of lack of material wealth. You may be rich but you can choose to be poor in the eyes of God. In reality, everything is own by God. Therefore, to be poor in spirit means to realize that we really do not own anything and that we depend only on the generosity of God.
Sorrow, pain, grief, loss, disappointment – all these break our heart and we cry, we mourn, we sigh for relief or comfort. No man, not even Jesus, is immune to the harsh effect of sin which is to take away our joy. We cannot ignore or escape them. Let us instead accept them and offer them as part of the supreme sacrifice of Jesus for the redemption of this world.
Meekness is the attitude of being gentle especially in a hostile environment. It is the exercise of self-restraint when you have reason to get mad and shout or fight back. It is synonymous to being kind, calm, and magnanimous. It is not equal to weakness but understanding to someone who is weak.
4. Hunger and thirst for righteousness
We live in a society where the forces of darkness seem to overpower the light. There is too much evil in this world. People kill each other. There is oppression, corruption and moral decay in all sectors of our community. So we cry out, where is righteousness? There is a kind of longing for the righteousness of God. This is our hunger and thirst that only Jesus can satisfy.
When we are merciful, we forgive the people who hurt us. We give them second or more chances to repent and to realize their mistake with the hope that they will change. We do not condemn nor retaliate but instead, we pray for them. We develop patience with people’s irritating habits and show respect to their different opinions and choices.
6. Cleanness of heart
Purity of heart means to be blameless in who we are. It is a requirement to see God face to face. If we are impure, it means we have evil thoughts, undesirable desires, ill motives, and unforgiven sins. We need the fire of God to refine us so that we can become white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
We become peacemakers when we bring warring people or even communities to the negotiating table and reconcile them with one another without sacrificing justice. When we work to promote harmony among people, that is peacemaking. When we proclaim the word of God and tell people to repent, we are emulating Jesus, the prince of peace who came to reconcile the rebellious people to God.
8. Enduring insults and persecution
The suffering and crucifixion of Jesus was a direct result of His peacemaking activities – proclamation of the Kingdom of God and telling people especially the authorities to seek righteousness. He endured insults and betrayal but He did not waver in the pursuit of His mission. Likewise, when we continue the work of Jesus, we expect the same experience but it should not hinder us in our work as servants in the vineyard of Christ.
A follower of Jesus who embodies the characters as listed above should rejoice and be glad for he will receive his just reward in heaven. As we celebrate All Saints Day, let us remember the people who already received the crown of eternal life because while they were on earth, they were the poster children of the Beatitudes. May their exemplary life encourage us to live the same virtues of the Beatitudes.