The Beatitudes are the promises of happiness made by Jesus to those who faithfully accept his teaching, faithfully follow his example, and actively accept and use the graces Jesus gives us to live the beatitudes. Jesus taught these beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (read Mt. 5:3-11). They are expression of the New Covenant, where happiness is assured already in this life, provided a person totally gives himself to the imitation of Christ. The Ten Commandments are about avoiding evil actions that are hostile to love and make peaceful life on earth impossible. The Beatitudes are complementary to the Ten Commandments, calling us to be new people living in a new way. They call us to live a life far more excellent than what the Ten Commandments require. The Beatitudes are first of all portraits of Jesus Christ himself (CCC1717). Jesus tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the lifeâ€¦” (Jn. 14:6) In the Beatitudes, we find the grace-filled way, the truth and the life. The Beatitudes answer the universal call to holiness. If we incorporate the Beatitudes into our daily living, we become like Christ and are filled with His holiness.
First Beatitude â€“ “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3) The “poor in spirit” are those who truly embrace God as the most important person in their lives. They also realize that people are of the next importance. Jesus declares that this is so (read Mk. 12: 28-31). Many people are strongly attached to the possession of worldly goods: pursuit of careers, seeking financial wealth, seeking social prominence, obtaining political power, a craving for sexual experiences, addiction to sports, etc. These worldly goods become, in essence, their gods. In the end they leave people spiritually bankrupt. Jesus warns us, “What profit would a man show if he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process?” (Mt. 16:26) While the poor in spirit recognize the need for material goods to support their bodily existence, they are detached from the drive to possess them as a “be all and end all”. They no longer have a taste for deceptive riches or praises of the world. The poor in spirit have realized that self-giving love is the richest form of living. The human person who best exemplifies the “poor in spirit” is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the lowly handmaid of the Lord.
Second Beatitude â€“ “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.” (Mt. 5:4) Jesus calls to us, “Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” (Mt. 11:29) Those who are meek are humble before God and kind toward other people. To be meek is to be Christ-like. Meekness is not weakness. When the people of Nazareth, angry at Jesus’ teachings, tried to throw him off a cliff, he calmly faced them down and walked away (read Lk. 4:28-30). He did not threaten them or curse them. When the Jewish temple authorities tried to stone Jesus, he again went away without throwing stones at them or cursing or threatening them (read Jn. 8:59). When a temple guard struck Jesus in the face at his passion, Jesus did not spit in his face or curse him. He faced the guard and posed a question of justice to him (read Jn. 18:22-23). Meekness is not cowardice, not an easy-going temperament, or spineless passivity. Meekness is self-possession. It is the virtue that controls the combative, violent, and pugnacious powers of our sin-damaged nature. A meek person never allows his anger to go up for an unholy purpose, or in defense of his pride or vanity, or conceit. The meek person only becomes aroused to action when the principles of God’s righteousness are threatened. St. Francis of Assisi is a model of meekness in action.