Beatitudes Tree Scripture Art, Monica Welch, Dovetail Ink.
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….” Matthew 5:1-3.
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When do you ever hear the word “beatitude” in normal conversation? Be honest… Well I don’t recall it ever being said outside conversations dedicated to Jesus’ message and mission. And yet this teaching is considered to be critically important to understanding what Jesus was all about. Consider here, and click on each one to find its source:
In the original Greek in which Matthew is written, the word blessed is a translation of the word μακάριος, makarios. The etymology of that word is given as: μακάριος, makarios, (from , down), blessed, happy (Blue Letter Bible). The Latin translation of it is beatus and its original meaning is: beatus, Latin, Adjective beātus, happy, fortunate, prosperous, wealthy, Church Latin, blessed (Definify). Clearly the ancients equated happiness with the holy or the blessed. All of which is just to suggest that we substitute the word happy for blessed in today’s gospel reading and consider the reaction each of us has in the sound of it:
Happy are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Happy are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.… and so on.
That seems to give an entirely new sense to those famous words, not to say a contradictory meaning! Holiness and happiness are united! To be holy, or blessed, is to be happy! True happiness is to be close to God. Jesus’ whole life, his whole ministry, was dedicated to making us happy, and telling each of us how to achieve it. He is telling us that true blessedness is to be found even in the bleakest of situations. Even when all is pain, and apparent hopelessness, there is always to be found the ultimate source of hope and happiness, God. I think of Thomas More’s last words in the play Man for All Seasons, to the man with the axe who was to execute him: “Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God” (Robert Bolt, Knopf, 1960, p.94), followed by his famous statement, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first”. There is a deep, convincing aura of peace in that terrible scene; there was no bitterness or hatred, no condemnation or curses. I’m also reminded of a lady I took communion to many years ago. She was in her 30s, but clearly very ill with a grey pallor. She was dying of cancer, but had a serenity which was utterly radiant and palpable. There lies the strength of Jesus’ words and teaching. There lie our hopes and conviction that whatever comes our way, if we are of God, there is a profound and utterly indestructible hope that what lies ahead is ultimately happiness eternal. Even when life is normal and humming along, there also lies our happiness. And then there are our moments of pure happiness when all is right with the world because things seem to portend heaven itself, in the eternally happy presence of God. And there is no secret as to how this can be done; today’s gospel tells us loud and clear.
Blessed Are the Pure in Heart for They Shall See God, Active Christianity.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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