Many people have asked me why the beatitudes would consider blessed those who, according to our human standards, are not fortunate in life, who suffer in one thing or another, who live a rather restricted kind of life, etc. Why should these persons be regarded as blessed, they ask.
To top it all, as taught in the Catechism, the beatitudes are considered as depicting “the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory his Passion and Resurrection, they shed light on the actions and the attitudes characteristic of the Christian life,” it says.
And it adds, “They are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations, they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples, they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.” (1717)
Does not this description of the beatitudes go against what in our heart of hearts would like to have and enjoy? Everyone wants to be rich. Everyone does not want to suffer anything. Everyone wants to give in to all his wants and desires that mainly are of the worldly and bodily type. Why should Christ not give all these human wants instead?
The answer to these questions may take time and effort to be understood and appreciated. The beatitudes are so articulated by Christ in order to serve as a profound and most effective antidote to our strong, almost invincibly strong tendency to self-love, to self-indulgence.
They are meant to extricate us from our own prison, our own world which is the antithesis of what true love is. They are meant to expand our heart to save it from being trapped by our own worldly and bodily desires. They are meant to teach us how to give ourselves to God and to everybody else, irrespective of how they are, which is what true love is.
Love is always a matter of total self-giving, be it in good times or bad times, in favorable conditions or not. Love has a universal scope. It is supposed to be given without measure, without counting the cost nor expecting any reward. It can be very discriminating without ever being discriminatory.
In short, the beatitudes detach us from our own selves so that we can truly identify ourselves with Christ who is the very pattern of our humanity and the savior of our sin-damaged humanity. They are actually a way to our liberation from our own self-inflicted bondage to merely earthly and bodily urges. They purify us from any stain caused by our worldly attachments.
They have to be understood from the point of view of our faith and never just from our own estimations of things, no matter how impressive these estimations may be due to our philosophies, ideologies, cultures, etc.
They obviously will require tremendous effort from us, and a strong spirit of sacrifice, self-denial and love for the cross, for only then can this truth of our faith sink in and become an operative principle of our life.
Most of all, they require us to always ask for the grace from God, for no mere human effort, no matter how big and extraordinary, can make us live by this truth of our faith.
It would be good that everyday we be guided by the beatitudes as we go through the drama of our life.*