What is a Beatitude? It’s a literary device found in the Bible. It begins “Blessed is the one who…”, and it then lists a virtuous quality.
There are more than 80 “Beatitudes” scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments.
It’s a way of teaching virtues, and promoting certain personal qualities, and communicating values that shape a culture.
When Jesus gave his Beatitudes, he totally flipped people out, because the very qualities he calls blessed are qualities we often don’t want, like persecution, poverty, and hunger.
Those aren’t on very many people’s Top Ten list.
If we were writing them, we might come up with a different set of values.
Imagine what would be the Beatitudes of West Texas in 2017. They might look something like this:
- Blessed are those who have lots of friends on Facebook.
- Blessed are those who drive a big new pickup.
- Blessed are our sports heroes, when they win.
- Blessed are those whose kid is a genius.
- Blessed are those who can afford braces, Accutane, implants, Lasik, and a nose job.
- Blessed are those whose house is always neat and clean.
- Blessed are those with good connections.
- Blessed are those who are never lonely.
- Blessed are those who own the mineral rights.
- Blessed are those who don't have anybody crazy in their family.
- Blessed are those who still have all their hair.
- And finally, blessed are those who agree with me.
What are the Beatitudes that drive your life?
Remember that Jesus is God. And the reason Jesus gives us his Beatitudes is so that we can judge things according to God’s will, not according to the criteria of the culture around us.
Jesus takes our natural assumptions about the meaning of true happiness in life, and he turns them upside down.
With his Beatitudes, he gives us a new set of glasses, so that we can see what is truly honorable and worthy of praise in God’s eyes, not the way we are used to seeing it.
So, what are these qualities and virtues taught to us by Jesus in his Beatitudes? Let’s explore them a bit:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit: This is when you realize that you cannot make it on your own. You desperately need the help and strength of God. You are powerless without God’s help.
- Blessed are those who mourn: This is referring not only to those who mourn their own sorrows, but also to those who care intensely for the sufferings and sorrows of others.
- Blessed are the meek: The Greek word is praus. It’s hard to translate. It is equanimity, a moderated temperament of soul. It refers to someone who has the appropriate balance between too much anger and too little anger. He has his instincts and his impulses under control. It’s the same adjective that is used to describe a powerful wild horse that has been tamed. Powerful, but with an even temper.
- Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness: This is hungering and thirsting for complete holiness, not just partial. Sometimes we say, “Lord, make me holy, but not just yet.”
- Blessed are those who show mercy: This is not when we pity someone from a distance. It’s compassion. The ability to see things with the eyes of the other, to imagine how the other must feel, to get inside the other person’s mind and heart and suffer with them.
- Blessed are the clean of heart: This is someone who is good to the core, a person of integrity, whose exterior actions and whose interior intentions are a coherent package of consistent goodness – through and through.
- Blessed are the peacemakers: Being a peacemaker does not mean evading the issues. It’s not the passive acceptance of the way things are because we’re afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them.
It’s about facing things honestly and actively, making peace, even if that means going through a struggle. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It means “right relationships.” So a peacemaker is somebody who “produces right relationships.”
Remember the teaching of Pope John Paul II: The two twin pillars on which true peace is built are justice and forgiveness.
- Blessed are you when you are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: The moment our Christianity costs us something is when we show our true loyalty to Christ.
Is our Catholicism just a comfortable social club, or are we actually willing to undergo insults and social ostracism and suffering for our faith?
Is my relationship with Jesus Christ in my Catholic Christian faith something I am willing to pour out my entire life for?
Well, I guess we can say that Jesus can write some pretty challenging Beatitudes, huh?
Let’s pray to make his Beatitudes our attitudes.