Today’s readings define our Christian goal of eternal happiness and explain the attitudes and actions necessary to reach it. They form the outline for Christ-like living, noting the personal qualities expected of a disciple of Jesus and pointing out the way of life to be lived by a disciple. They show us the values that Christ cares about. In essence, the Beatitudes both fulfill and complete the Ten Commandments which stress the “Thou shalt nots.” But Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, as the virtues in life which will ultimately lead to the rewards of salvation – not in this world, but in the next.
Zephaniah, in the first reading, calls the “moral minority” of the Jews of his time “blessed” because they seek justice, humility, truth, and righteousness, thus making a declaration of dependence on God. In the second reading, Paul advises his Corinthian Christians to use their gifts and Heaven-sent blessings for the good of the community because God has chosen to give them life in Jesus, by whom He justified, sanctified and redeemed them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the blessed in Jesus’ list are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, clean of heart, peace-makers and those who are willing even to be insulted and persecuted for their lived Faith in him Each of the inspired authors of today’s readings, Zephaniah, Paul, and Matthew, “makes a motion,” that each of us should consider making a personal Declaration of Dependence on God and then work with His grace to lead a holier and happier life.
1) We need to respond to the challenge of the Beatitudes in daily life. The Beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice. They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to become the peacemakers in our dealings with one another, in our families, and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes us to ridicule and persecution. Let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick, and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the Beatitudes here and now.
2) We need to choose the way wisely. “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache,” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian faith. The way of life is the way of Jesus that leads to eternal life. The challenge of the beatitudes is: “Are you going to be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?” God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another.