The Beatitudes

For Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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 5:1-12a

Reflection

Blessed are the poor in spirit. What does this mean exactly? Think of the opposite of being poor in spirit—which is being prideful. When someone is prideful, they are “puffed up” and “full of themselves” (see 1 Corinthians 13:4–5). The antithesis of pride is humility. Therefore, you are a blessed man if you humbly acknowledge that God is God, and you are not. 

Blessed are they who mourn. How is it that the sorrowful are the happy ones? Isn’t this a clear contradiction? No, even though it may seem to be. Those who mourn are blessed since they mourn over the right things. In other words, they place their joy in eternal things and not in the things of this world. Precisely in their earthly mourning, they experience a hopeful joy for eternity. Even though they are bound to encounter sorrow in this valley of tears, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is their comforter. 

Blessed are the meek. What is meekness? It’s certainly not a word you hear every day. Meekness is not weakness; rather, it is the controlling of the emotion of anger through right reason and love. Moses is an example of meekness. He was said to be the meekest man in the world (see Numbers 12:3) because he only had righteous anger (see Exodus 32). However, he eventually became embittered and spoke words that were rash when he was tested at the waters of Meribah (see Numbers 20:10–11, Psalms 106:33). Sadly, this prohibited him from inheriting the promised land (see Deuteronomy 32:51–52). Moses’s punishment serves as a kind of warning for us: if we want to enter into heaven, the true promised land, then we must learn to control our anger (see Ephesians 4:26–31). 

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Our Lord also says many times elsewhere: “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34; compare 5:30, 36, 6:38, 9:4, 17:3–4). This should be our greatest source of motivation. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. In one sense, this means: “the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matthew 7:2). But as St. John Chrysostom says, “The reward here seems at first to be only an equal return; but indeed it is much more; for human mercy and divine mercy are not to be put on an equality.”1 You receive far more mercy from God than you could ever show others. 

Blessed are the clean of heart… Blessed are the peacemakers. Remember well that you were made a child of God in your baptism. Cherish this new identity and this new dignity that was bestowed on you by God the Father. If we remain pure and persevere to the end, then, by God’s grace, “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). 

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. This is to say: “You are blessed when you stand up for what is right—no matter the earthly consequences.”

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. In this last beatitude, Jesus returns to the first. Just as he promised the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit, now he promises the kingdom to those who are persecuted. 

In your silent prayer today, reflect on one or two of these Beatitudes and write them down. Ask the Lord to lead you in your prayer and consider what action He may be asking of you.

Is it time for your Exodus? Learn more here.

 


 1Quote by St. John Chrysostom found in Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 152.

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