The Beauty of the Beatitudes

Scripture Reading

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.”
(Matthew 5:1-12)

 

Scripture Study

5:1–2 Unlike Luke’s sermon, this is addressed not only to the disciples but to the crowds.

5:3–12 The form Blessed are (is) occurs frequently in the Old Testament in the Wisdom literature and in the psalms. Although modified by Matthew, the first, second, fourth, and ninth beatitudes have Lucan parallels (Mt 5:3 // Lk 6:20; Mt 5:4 // Lk 6:21, 22; Mt 5:6 // Lk 6:21a; Mt 5:11–12 // Lk 5:22–23).

5:3 The poor in spirit: in the Old Testament, the poor (anawim) are those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God (see Is 61:1; Zep 2:3; in the NAB the word is translated lowly and humble, respectively, in those texts). Matthew added in spirit in order either to indicate that only the devout poor were meant or to extend the beatitude to all, of whatever social rank, who recognized their complete dependence on God.

5:4 Cf. Is 61:2 “(The Lord has sent me) … to comfort all who mourn.” They will be comforted: here the passive is a “theological passive” equivalent to the active “God will comfort them”; so also in Mt 5:6, 7.

5:5 Cf. Ps 37:11, “… the meek shall possess the land.” In the psalm “the land” means the land of Palestine; here it means the kingdom.

5:6 For righteousness: a Matthean addition. For the meaning of righteousness here.

5:8 Cf. Ps 24:4. Only one “whose heart is clean” can take part in the temple worship. To be with God in the temple is described in Ps 42:2 as “beholding his face,” but here the promise to the clean of heart is that they will see God not in the temple but in the coming kingdom.

5:10 Righteousness here, as usually in Matthew, means conduct in conformity with God’s will.

5:12 The prophets who were before you: the disciples of Jesus stand in the line of the persecuted prophets of Israel. Some would see the expression as indicating also that Matthew considered all Christian disciples as prophets.[1]

Scripture Reflection

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:10

The Greek word for happy (makarios) denotes blessedness or happiness not in the sense of an emotional state but in terms of being in a fortunate situation. The beatitudes announce that the blessings of the New Covenant will be fully realized in heaven. Some do promise blessings that are partly enjoyed in this life, but all of them look beyond the struggles and hardships of this life to the eternal blessedness of the life to come. Jesus’ beatitudes represent a reversal of values, turning the world’s standards for happiness upside down.

Many of the people whom the world would consider to be among the most miserable—the poor, the mourning, the meek, the persecuted—Jesus proclaims to be in an advantageous situation, for God looks now with favor on them and assures them of consolation in the future. Jesus thus challenges his followers to see life from God’s viewpoint, not the world’s. When followers of Christ live by God’s standards, they are truly in a fortunate state in life, no matter what their circumstances may be, for they bring a glimmer of the joy and hope of the heavenly kingdom into the afflictions of the present-day world.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1342–1343.