17 [Jesus] came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon... 20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. "Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Meditation: When you encounter misfortune, grief, or
tragic loss, how do you respond? With fear or faith? With passive
resignation or with patient hope and trust in God? We know from
experience that no one can escape all of the inevitable trials of
life - pain, suffering, sickness, and death. When Jesus began to
teach his disciples he gave them a "way of happiness" that
transcends every difficulty and trouble that can weigh us down
with grief and despair. Jesus began his sermon on the mount by
addressing the issue of where true happiness can be found. The
word beatitude literally means happiness or blessedness.
Jesus' way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from
within - a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about
through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit.
True happiness can only be fulfilled in God
How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God's word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and oppression.
The beatitudes strengthen us in virtue and excellence
Ambrose (339-397 A.D), an early church father and bishop of Milan, links the beatitudes with the four cardinal virtues which strengthen us in living a life of moral excellence. He writes: "Let us see how St. Luke encompassed the eight blessings in the four. We know that there are four cardinal virtues: temperance, justice, prudence and fortitude. One who is poor in spirit is not greedy. One who weeps is not proud but is submissive and tranquil. One who mourns is humble. One who is just does not deny what he knows is given jointly to all for us. One who is merciful gives away his own goods. One who bestows his own goods does not seek another's, nor does he contrive a trap for his neighbor. These virtues are interwoven and interlinked, so that one who has one may be seen to have several, and a single virtue befits the saints. Where virtue abounds, the reward too abounds... Thus temperance has purity of heart and spirit, justice has compassion, patience has peace, and endurance has gentleness." (EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 5.62-63, 68).
No one can live without joy
God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas said: "No person can live without joy. That is why someone deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures." Do you know the joy and happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Jesus, though rich, became poor for us, by Ambrose of Milan, 339-397 A.D.
"'Blessed,' it says, 'are the poor.' Not all the poor are
blessed, for poverty is neutral. The poor can be either good or
evil, unless, perhaps, the blessed pauper is to be understood as
he whom the prophet described, saying, 'A righteous poor man is
better than a rich liar' (Proverbs 19:22). Blessed
is the poor man who cried and whom the Lord heard (Psalm 34:6).
Blessed is the man poor in offense. Blessed is the man poor in
vices. Blessed is the poor man in whom the prince of this world (John
14:30) finds nothing. Blessed is the poor man who is
like that poor Man who, although he was rich, became poor for our
sake (2 Corinthians 8:9). Matthew fully revealed
this when he said, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'
(Matthew 5:3). One poor in spirit is not puffed up, is
not exalted in the mind of his own flesh. This beatitude is first,
when I have laid aside every sin, and I have taken off all malice,
and I am content with simplicity, destitute of evils. All that
remains is that I regulate my conduct. For what good does it do me
to lack worldly goods, unless I am meek and gentle?" (excerpt
from EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 5.53-54)