Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer if it is compared with its opposite. The opposite of beatitude is misery. Misery means being afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings. ” Beatitudes of Christian life are simply stated but are known to be intense in meaning. They point, guide and teach. This shows us the values that Christ is concerned with. It is believed that if these values are followed, can not only bring a believer into a state of peace and happiness, but also right into the Kingdom of God after our journey on earth comes to an end.
Jesus Christ gave us the eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded for all posterity in the Gospel of Matthew, the first Book of the New Testament of the Bible. The teachings of Christ Jesus were simple but unique and innovative at the time of his life on earth thus the message of Jesus was one of humility, charity, and brotherly love.
He taught transformation of the inner person. All of the Beatitudes have an eschatological meaning, that is, they promise us salvation – not in this world, but in the next.
Delving deeper into the meaning of the Beatitudes, it becomes apparent that they are laid out in a definite sequence. They show a person the way to true happiness and explain how to travel on this path. The fact that each person (without exception) is damaged by sin, and thus destitute and pitiful, serves as the starting point for the Beatitudes. While the Beatitudes provide a way of life that promises salvation, they also provide peace in the midst of our trials and tribulations on this earth.
Here we look at each of the eight Beatitude with its significance to Christian life. 1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ” “Poor in spirit” means to be humble. Humility is the realization that all your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God. To have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Word of God. When we are an empty cup and devoid of pride, we are humble. Humility brings openness and an inner peace, allowing one to do the will of God. He who humbles himself is able to accept our delicate nature, to repent, and to allow the grace of God to lead us to Conversion. It is pride, the opposite of humility, which brings misery.
For pride brings anger and the seeking of revenge, especially when one is offended. If every man were humble and poor in spirit, there would be no war. Significance. The clear lesson is that if any are going to enter the kingdom of heaven they must become poor in spirit. This is the message of the kingdom; it is the call of repentance. They must humble themselves before God and acknowledge that they bring nothing of their own power, possessions or merit to gain entrance. Those who truly humble themselves and express their need of the Lord, they have the kingdom of heaven.
And in this they find heavenly bliss. 2. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ” If we are humble and appreciate that all of our gifts and blessings come from God, we grow in love and gratitude for Jesus Christ our Savior. But this can only produce mourning and regret over our own sins and the sins of this world, for we have hurt the one who has been so good to us. One also mourns for the suffering of others. The more one ascends in meditation of Divine Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and then realize the poverty of human nature; man can only be left in sorrow.
When one contemplates that we were made in the image and likeness of God and lived in Paradise, the Garden of Eden, and compare that to our present state after the fall, one can only mourn our present condition ~ St. Gregory. But the sentence continues that they shall be comforted, by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and hopefully one day in the Kingdom of Heaven. Mourning in this context is called a blessing, because mourning our fallen nature creates in us a desire to improve ourselves and to do what is right. Significance. The instruction here would concern the focus of the mourning, not the mourning itself.
The mourning that will be comforted is the mourning of the disciples, those who have the proper understanding of the reasons for the mourning. And they will have the proper faith to see them through. As people face the sadness of life, they can do so with hope if they have mourned over sin – a clear sign of faith in the Savior. 3. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. ” St. Gregory of Nyssa taught that the Beatitudes build one upon another. A humble person becomes meek, or becomes gentle and kind, and exhibits a docility of spirit, even in the face of adversity and hardship.
A person that is meek is one that exhibits self-control. St. Augustine advises us to be meek in the face of the Lord, and not resist but be obedient to him. Obedience and submission to the will of God are certainly not in vogue these days, but they will bring one peace in this world and in the next. Significance. How does one become meek? What if one’s nature is not meek? The answer to this comes from other passages of the Bible that describe how the spiritual life works. Meekness and gentleness and goodness are part of the fruit of the Spirit–they are produced in the Christian by the Holy Spirit.
So the direction people should follow to cultivate a spirit of meekness would be to walk by the Spirit, or be controlled by the Spirit of God so that the qualities of Christ can be produced in and through them. That instruction alone will call for some study, but that is the way the Bible describes meekness developing. 4. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. ” A continuous desire for justice and moral perfection will lead one to a fulfillment of that desire – a transition and conversion to holiness.
This is true for all the virtues – if you hunger and thirst for temperance, you will head towards the goal you have in mind. St. Augustine, in his discourse on the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, notes the correspondence of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and their necessity in fulfilling the Beatitudes. For example, one must have the gift of fortitude so one may be courageous in seeking justice. Significance. Here too we must ask how this desire is developed. Most Christians are for righteousness–but how does the desire become so intense?
It also has to come from the development of the spiritual life. Paul teaches that the spiritual person is one who yields his or her members as instruments of righteousness. So it begins with commitment to God’s will. Then, as the spiritual walk is guided by the Holy Spirit, He leads the believer into righteousness. And the closer one lives to the Lord, the more sensitive he or she becomes to the unrighteousness and injustice in the world. The truly spiritual person then will begin to long for righteousness. 5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Mercy is the loving disposition towards those who suffer distress. Love, compassion, and forgiveness towards one’s neighbor will bring peace in your relationships. We say in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. As we are merciful to others, so our Heavenly Father will be merciful with us. Jesus reminds us that whatever “you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me (Matthew 25:31-46). ” St. Paul calls for the obedience of faith in the beginning and end of his Letter to the Romans (1:5, 16:25-27).
The following are ways to be merciful to your neighbor, as well as obedient in faith to Christ our Savior. The Corporal Works of Mercy 1 Feed the Hungry 2 Give drink to the thirsty 3 Clothe the naked 4 Shelter the homeless 5 Comfort the imprisoned 6 Visit the sick 7 Bury the dead The Spiritual Works of Mercy 1 Admonish sinners 2 Instruct the uninformed 3 Counsel the doubtful 4 Comfort the sorrowful 5 Be patient with those in error 6 Forgive offenses 7 Pray for the living and the dead Significance. Here to the act of showing mercy comes from the genuine spiritual experience.
People who know more of God’s mercy will be merciful. It is important, then, that people have a good understanding of the grace of God in their own lives. This will come from the experience of confession of sin and thanksgiving for forgiveness–two aspects of the believers walk that often get neglected. Christians some times get to the point of thinking that they deserved the grace they have received, and they become then intolerant of others, even judgmental. The reality of our own spiritual condition and God’s provision must never be forgotten. 6. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Moses (Exodus 33:20), John (1:18), and Paul (1Timothy 6:16) all say that no one can see God here on earth! But Jesus says the pure of heart shall see God! To be pure of heart means to be free of all selfish intentions and self-seeking desires. What a beautiful goal! How many times have any of us performed an act perfectly free of any personal gain? Such an act is pure love. An act of pure and selfless giving brings happiness to all. Significance. How does one gain a pure heart? It begins with conversion when God gives us a “new heart,” and it continues through the spiritual growth as we follow Christ.
Walking in the light, meaning learning to live by the word of God, will change the way we think so that our hearts will grow more and more pure. But as the light of the word reveals impurities, we must deal with them and change. 7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. ” Peacemakers not only live peaceful lives but also try to bring peace and friendship to others, and to preserve peace between God and man. St. Gregory of Nyssa calls a peacemaker a man who brings peace to another; but one cannot give another one does not possess oneself.
Hence the Lord wants you first to be yourself filled with the blessings of peace and then to communicate it to those who have need of it. By imitating God’s love of man, the peacemakers become children of God. Significance. So the disciples of Jesus should be promoting peace. They do this by spreading the Gospel of peace to the world, and by promoting reconciliation within the household of faith as well. In short, they should be doing the work of the Messiah. 8. “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said many times that those who follow Him will be persecuted. “If they persecute me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20-21). Stephen, Peter and Paul, nearly all of the Apostles, and many Christians in the Roman era suffered martyrdom. The twentieth century with its two World Wars and endless regional conflicts has seen its share of martyrs such as Maximilian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the Central American martyrs. But the Lord promised those that suffer for his sake will be rewarded with the Kingdom of Heaven. Significance.
The lesson would simply be that people should be living for Christ in this world, living the way members of the kingdom should live, championing righteousness and justice, showing mercy, remaining meek and poor in spirit–all the things that the beatitudes praise. But they should know that genuine righteousness is offensive to many, and so they will be prepared for opposition.
To sum up, we see that most of the beatitudes, especially the last five, call upon us to love. Love takes its initial form in mercy for people. Spiritual peacemaking is a higher form of love; for its success purity of heart and nsight from God are needed. Remaining faithful to God under ridicule and persecution, as well as willingly giving one’s life in the name of Christ, is the highest expression of love for God. In this way, the last five beatitudes, showing the Christian more and more perfect forms of love, sketch before him a plan for the upper arches of his or her temple of virtue. In conclusion, it is necessary to say that a Christian, striving toward love, should not in the process forget and ignore the foundation on which his house of virtue stands: that is, humility, the purifying of his conscience and meekness.
For if his spiritual foundation begins to weaken and crack, the entire building may fall.
1. The Holy Bible 2. Brown RE, Fitzmeyer JA, Murphy RE (eds): The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1990. 3. St. Gregory of Nyssa. The Lord’s Prayer and The Beatitudes. Ancient Christian Writers, Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey 4. http://www. orthodoxphotos. com 5. http://www. jesuschristsavior. net 6. http://robertwells. tripod. com 7. http://bible. org
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