TEXT — Matthew 5: 1–12a: — The Beatitudes
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who Mourn
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the Meek
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the Merciful
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the Peacemakers
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are Persecuted for Righteousness’ sake
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are You when Men Revile You,
and Persecute You
and Utter All Kinds of Evil about You on My Account
11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and Be Glad
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5: 1–12a is the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 5: 1: 1–7: 29. entitled “The Sermon on the Mount”, is the best known of the five major instructions given in Matthew’s Gospel. The other four discourses are Chapters 10, 13, 19 and 24–25
Many people would regard Christian living as a way of life that promises earthly happiness in this life for those who obey God’s Law and unhappiness as punishment for those breaking the Commandments or Old Law. That is not promulgated in the Bible. Definitive salvation is promised not in this world but in the next life.
Eight beatitudes are listed. They may be described as Jesus’ Public Manifesto of his way of living. This passage does not describe eight categories of people but just one person who has all the eight beatitudes. These beatitudes describe the way Jesus lived and the way his disciples are expected to live. Salvation is promised to those who live the eight beatitudes.
The word “beatitude” is translated as “happy” in some translations. In fact neither “beatitude” nor “happy” would merit a top score in translating. “Blessedness”, like the manner in which Jesus lived or “blissful” would be better as they connote a permanent state rather than a transitory feeling. though perhaps for some people these words could be quite unwieldy.
We can regard the beatitudes as containing the complete programme of Christian perfection as they outline Jesus way of living. In the Sermon Jesus declares that he did not come on earth to destroy the ten Commandments nor the Old Law but to fulfill what they taught (Mt. 5: 18–20). Only now is the full, complete revelation begun with Moses presented.
Ezekiel 336: 24–27–sums up the purpose of the Beatitudes:  “”For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.  You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
The Beatitudes are described as the law of the Heart.
Seeing the crowds, he went upon the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying;
“Seeing the crowds” — Mt. Chapter 4: 23–25 tells of the healing and preaching Jesus had performed in Galilee and surrounds and the conclusion was that “large crowds” followed him from all Galilee and the Roman Province of Syria including Palestine, Jerusalem and Decapolis, that is ten cities or towns where Greek was spoken., The crowds represented all Israel following him to hear his teachings and be cured. “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Mt. 7: 28). As the crowds are mentioned in Mt. 5: 1 and 7: 28–29 means that what is contained betweened these references applies to the crowds in these three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount. On the Mount the disciples would have formed an outer ring around Jesus. See Nehemiah, 8: 4
“he went up on the mountain”: Matthew does not name this mountain. Mountains were places where, in the view of people, God lived. They saw the connection of the mountains reaching into the heavens as his residence. Consequently mountains were regarded as places of prayer and revelation, that is, God’s revealing his teachings. Matthew intended to depict Jesus as a new Moses who has come from Egypt (2: 20–21) like the first, and now proclaimed a new revelation, the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Law. The first Moses had gone up Mt. Sinai and collected the Old Law or Ten Commandments from God to be promulgated among the People of God (Ex: 19–20). Here now is Jesus promulgating the New Law in his own right.
Jesus was tempted on a mountain (Mt. 4: 8–10); fed four thousand on a mountain (Mt. 15: 29–39); was transfigured on a mountain (Mt. 17; 1–9); was arrested on one (Mt. 26: 30–35 and ascended to heaven from a mountain (Mt. 28: 16).
“and when he sat down”: the posture of a Jewish teacher. See Mt. 13: 1;15: 29; 24: 1; 26: 55.
“his disciples came to him”: The disciples Peter, Andrew, James and John had just been called by Jesus to share his way of life (Mt: 4). That they were the first of his most intimate followers on whom he would depend to build his Church is clear. The distinction between the crowds and disciples is simple and clear. The crowds were moved by Jesus’ healings and preaching but they had not decided definitively to follow him yet. The disciples had made their absolute commitment to follow Jesus and his way of life and living. Now in the Sermon on the Mount they will receive from Jesus their first instructions. Jesus regarded this teaching as addressed to them and he has the crowd join and learn through the new disciples of their teaching role of on the new revelation of the New Law.
“And he opened his mouth”: This is a Jewish way of expressing that ‘he began to teach them’. He impressed the crowds
“He taught them — This refers both to the disciples and to the multitude, as can be seen at the end of the Sermon (Matthew 7:28–29)“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
The Poor in Spirit
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
It is quite clear that Jesus had Isaiah 61: 1–3 in mind when he proclaimed beatitudes 1 –3 during the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. This is a great help for their explanation. The section in Isaiah deals with the hopes for a new Temple and a new authentic leadership with a different set of principled and attitudes. It is not a new legislation. . The beatitudes treat of a new way of religious living and relationship with God.. A prophet is to be anointed, the Messiah
“Blessed” — This word really expresses praise and thanksgiving from God for a person’s present state of happiness coming from living God’s gift. It is frequent in the psalms and wisdom literature.
The Beatitudes are Jesus’ Manifesto as he begins his public ministry. Those who follow him will have these attributes as he has them and which are opposed to the way of life promoted by the society of the time and in which we also live.
“are the poor in spirit”:– God had special care for the poor in the Old Testament (Ex, 22: 25–27; Lv.19: 9–10; Dt. 15: 10–11; Is. 61: 11). Those economically poor were praised and specially loved by the prophets and authors of the Psalms and literature of Wisdom. The economically poor in spirit are materially poor but trust absolutely in God and do not expect anything from mankind. The poor in spirit are those who have absolute dependence on God for everything and recognised God’s Kingdom or reign as a free gift that they could receive. Everything belongs to God and comes from him. for absolute integrity. The beatitude of the poor in spirit is really a call for a change of heart from a worldly one.
“theirs is the kingdom of heaven” — Matthew uses the word “heaven” for “God” when referring to the kingdom. The poor in spirit are assured of entering heaven. Theirs is the Kingdom — They already share in the Kingdom. It is Jesus the Messiah who will confer the Kingdom.
This is the first reference in what is known as an “inclusio” the second part of which will be repeated in Mt. 5: 10 to indicate that this expression is also the reward of all mentioned between these two verses.
Those who Mourn
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are those who mourn”: — those who are sad to see the evils that had fallen on Israel because of the sins of the people. Isaiah 61: 2 (He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted).could be the background to this second beatitude as indicated in the first lines of the comment on the previous beatitude.
“for they shall be comforted”: They shall see the Messianic age which will bring salvation.
The Spirit of God will console with peace and joy, even in this life, those who weep for their sins and the evils which flow from the sins of the people of Israel. Later the Spirit will give them a share in the fullness of happiness and glory in Heaven: These are the blessed.
St. Leo the Great: “These mourners, dearly beloved, to whom eternal consolation is promised, do not share in the feelings of this world. Those laments which are poured out by the weeping of the whole human race do not make anyone blessed. The groans of the holy are of another kind. There is another cause of consecrated tears. Devout sorrow grieves at the sin of another or its own, not at what divine justice does. Religious sorrow grieves at what is committed by human iniquity, where the one doing the evil ought to be more swept for than the one suffering it. Their own malice directs the unjust to their penalty, but patience leads the just to glory.”
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are the meek” — The meek, also known as “the gentle”, are those who are peaceful before God because of their absolute dependence on him and before people because of Jesus. He had all the power he wanted yet never used it for his own interests or needs or to manipulate or control people but his sole desire was to serve everyone. The meek are not gentle because of weakness as moderns are inclined to consider it,
“for they shall inherit the earth” –– James 2: 5 writes, “Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?”The meek who remain serene in the adversity of persecution and never aggressive will eventually have authority in the Kingdom of Heaven
Those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” — “Righteousness” or justice in Matthew indicates having a proper and intimate relationship with God, seeking to fulfil his will perfectly in all things. In the Bible, it is the same as what we call “holiness” (1 John 2:29; 3:7–10; Revelation 22:11; Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 9:4).
“for they shall be satisfied” — Those who seek such a relationship or union in a serious and zealous manner will be satisfied.
As St. Jerome comments (“Comm. on Matthew“, 5, 6), our Lord is asking us not simply to have a vague desire for righteousness: we should hunger and thirst for it, that is, we should love and strive earnestly to seek what makes a man righteous in God’s eyes. A person who genuinely wants to attain Christian holiness should love the means which the Church, the universal vehicle of salvation, offers all men and teaches them to use — frequent use of the Sacraments, an intimate relationship with God in prayer, a valiant effort to meet one’s social, professional and family responsibilities.
St. Leo the Great: “This is not bodily hunger. This thirst seeks nothing earthly, but longs to be filled with the good of justice. When it is brought into the hidden place of all mysteries, it hopes ‘to be filled with the Lord himself.’ Happy is the soul that wants this food and burns for such a drink, which assuredly it would not be seeking if it had not already tasted something of its sweetness. When it hears the spirit of the prophet saying to it, Taste and see that the Lord is sweet, it has received a certain portion of heavenly sweetness and is ardent in love of the purest delight.
“The soul then spurns all temporal things and is inflamed to eat and drink justice with all its good will. It comprehends the truth of that first commandment which says, You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole mind, with all your strength. Since to love God is nothing else than to love justice.”
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”
: “Blessed are the merciful: — Compassion is another name for mercy. Forgiveness and almsgiving are the two most frequent examples of mercy in Matthew’s Gospel. Mercy is not just a matter of giving alms to the poor but also of being understanding towards other peoples’ problems, overlooking these, forgiving them, helping people cope with them and loving them despite whatever defects they may have. Being merciful also means rejoicing and suffering with other people.
The merciless Pharisees were the persons most condemned by Jesus for their lack of mercy Mt. 9: 13; 12: 7; 23: 13’ 18: 13). Many would regard mercy as Jesus’ greatest attribute.
“for they shall obtain mercy” — What they share assures them of God’s mercy, including a place in heaven.
The Pure in Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” — External purity was practised as necessary for ritual worship by the Pharisees. Jesus took them to task on several occasions because of their emphasis on external worship that did not come from their hearts. Recall Ezechiel 36: 36 already given where the promise of a new heart for people is declared. See also Mt. 12: 23; 36; 12:34where it is said that words and actions flow from the heart and so are good or bad according to the heart.
Nor does this beatitude refer to chastity as such though it would include it. Fundamentally pure in heart means cleanliness of heart. In this beatitude both moral and ritual purity are intended.
Christ teaches us that the source of the quality of human acts lies in the heart, that is, in a man’s soul, in the depths of his spirit. “When we speak of a person’s heart, we refer not just to his sentiments, but to the whole person in his loving dealings with others. In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses the expression `heart’ in its full human meaning, as the summary and source, expression and ultimate basis, of one’s thoughts, words and actions.
Cleanness of heart is a gift of God, which expresses itself in a capacity to love, in having an upright and pure attitude to everything noble. As St. Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
“For they shall see God” — Helped by God’s grace, a Christian should constantly strive to cleanse his heart and acquire this purity, whose reward is the vision of God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called ed children of God”.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” — Peacemakers are those who reconcile people who are opposed to one another. Above all, it means those who reconcile sinners with God
“for they shall be called sons of God”: They shall be performing the mission of Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh who came to bring God’s peace to the world.
The translation “peacemakers” well conveys the active meaning of the original text — those who foster peace, in themselves and in others and, as a basis for that, try to be reconciled and to reconcile others with God. Being at peace with God is to be like God, his child. Being at peace with God is the cause and effect of every kind of peace. Any peace on earth not based on this divine peace would be vain and misleading.
“They shall be called sons of Go”: — this is a saying often found in Sacred Scripture; it is the same as saying “they will be sons of God”. St. John’s first letter (3:1) provides a correct exegesis of this Beatitude: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are“.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”: — See verse 6 above. The meaning is that those who are persecuted because they desire to keep a correct relationship with God and who are persecuted on account of this are blessed.
“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”:– The end of an inclusion with verse 3. The meaning is that each reward from the first beatitude to the present, number 8, includes the reward of living in the Kingdom of Heaven,
What this Beatitude means, then, is: blessed are those who are persecuted because they are holy, or because they are striving to be holy [righteous], for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thus, blessed is he who suffers persecution for being true to Jesus Christ and who does so not only patiently but joyfully. Circumstances arise in a Christian’s life that call for heroism––where no compromise is admissible: either one stays true to Jesus Christ whatever the cost in terms of reputation, life or possessions, or one denies Him. St. Bernard (“Sermon on the Feast of All Saints”) says that the eighth Beatitude is as it were the prerogative of Christian martyrs. Every Christian who is faithful to Jesus’ teaching is in fact a “martyr” (a witness) who reflects or acts according with this Beatitude, even if he does not undergo physical death.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account; Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you
This is not a ninth beatitude but an expansion of the eighth which St. Matthew came across and decided to include it.
“Blessed are you” — The plural is used. This is a direct address to the disciples, the ministers of the Church, representing the Church.
“when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely” — This is not a new beatitude but an application of the eighth.
on my account — Jesus identifies himself with righteousness: see verse 10. Prior to this the prophets (see verse 12) were persecuted because they observed and promoted the Law whose observance proclaimed a desire to be in good relationship with God. Now Jesus is replacing the Law.
The Beatitudes are the conditions Jesus lays down for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. This verse, in a way summing up the preceding ones, is an invitation to everyone to put this teaching into practice. The Christian life, then, is no easy matter, but it is worthwhile, given the reward that Jesus promises.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven”: — Heaven is not described as a place. This is a Hebrew way of respectfully avoiding the word ‘God” which was regarded as sacred.
“for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you”:– See Mt. 23: 29–36 — “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous bloodshed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari’ah the son of Barachi’ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
November 1 each year celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. A “solemnity” is the highest ranking feast and generally a Holiday of Obligation. The question can be asked why does the Church celebrate this feast and this year, when it falls on a Sunday, it replaces the Sunday Mass?
The answer is simple: it is such an important day. During the year the Church appoints certain days to honour certain saints, such as St. Patrick on March 17 and St. Joseph on March 19, etc. We could go through the calendar and list the hundreds of saints honoured with a feast–day. The Feast of All Saints celebrates each one of the millions who have been taken to heaven, what I like to call “the Unknown Saints”, who have not publicly been declared Saints or Blesseds, yet many of whom were honoured as such at a later date. Pope St. John Paul is a saint known, at least through television, to most of us. He raised 476 saints and 1315 blesseds during his 23 years as Pope. And in a few years after his death in 2003 he himself was raised to blessed and then to saint. Those who were most outstanding had their “causes” introduced and many of these will be declared to be, as we say, “on the altars of the Church”. Among these could be such persons as Matt Talbot, Edel Quinn and Frank Duff whose “causes” are under study. The parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus were declared “Blesseds” in October and there is a search for more married couples to join these. The search is also emphasising lay people such as the three Irish mentioned above.
My parents, sister and grandparents lived very religious but unpretentious lives and it is unlikely that they ever would be declared saints or blesseds. Nevertheless they were great saints and certainly in my opinion, are in heaven. My family will be celebrating their memory on Sunday. They deserve it.
What will we celebrate? Firstly, we will give thanks to Almighty God who graced them with gifts to merit heaven.
Then we will think of the virtues the practised very humbly in our home and we will pray that all their offspring will join them in heaven in due time.
We trust that we will be renewed in our hope to develop like them and have God as the first and centre place in our houses.
What do w .have to do to merit and enter heaven? Today’s Gospel gives the answer — the beatitudes lived as Jesus taught and practised so as to be our model. Jesus sought to know God’s will in everything and then he put it into practise. Today’s Gospel shows us how the beatitudes are God’s will for us They are our road to sanctity and righteousness.
To end this lengthy commentary and Application we can make two fundamental remarks. We must make constant effort if we wish to become citizens of heaven. We can be strengthened in this and become one with Jesus our model in the living of the beatitudes if we receive Holt Communion regularly.