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THE CONSOLING BEATITUDES

Read­ing Time: 6 minutes

Lord, keep me low; empty me more and more; lay me in the dust, let me be dead and bur­ied as to all that is of self; then shall Jesus live in me, and reign in me, and be truly my All-in-all!” “The man who is quite sat­is­fied with the name of a Chris­ti­an, without the life of a Chris­ti­an will nev­er see God nor any­thing at all until his eyes are divinely opened.” 

Intro­duc­tion
The Beatitude is the first major dis­course delivered by Jesus as recor­ded in the Gos­pel accord­ing to Mat­thew (chapters 5–7; see also Luke 6:20–49). Beatitude is a state of supreme hap­pi­ness. It could be likened to the Hindu and Buddhist Enlightenment/Nirvana, the beatitude that tran­scends the cycle of rein­carn­a­tion, marked by the extinc­tion of desire, suf­fer­ing and indi­vidu­al aware­ness. The beatitudes have been influ­enced by Isai­ah 61, which men­tions the poor in 61:1; com­fort for mourn­ers in 61:2; right­eous­ness in 61:3.8.11; heal­ing of the broken-hearted (same as the pure in heart of Mat­thew) in 61:1; and inher­it­ing the land in 61:1 (cf. also Ps 37:11). The king­dom of heav­en is func­tion­ally equi­val­ent to the preach­ing of the good news of Isai­ah 61:1. That is, the king­dom of heav­en of the beatitudes has the same effect and mean­ing with the preach­ing of the good news as stated in Isai­ah 61:1.

What is Beatitude?
Beatitude is a form of wis­dom say­ing. It adds a dis­tinct­ive theo­lo­gic­al tone to the bib­lic­al writ­ings. It is one of the lit­er­ary genres (com­mu­nic­a­tion tech­nique) fre­quently found in the Scrip­tures. One of the best known is Psalm 1:1 – “Blessed is he/she who does not walk in the coun­sel of the wicked.” We also find sim­il­ar wis­dom in Psalm 112:1 and Pro­verbs 28:14: “Blessed is the man/woman who fears the Lord.

The Eng­lish term beatitude is a trans­la­tion of the Greek word makári­os. Because of this Greek word, the beatitude is also referred to as ‘makarism’, due to the con­tinu­ous use of the verb blessed or happy. Gen­er­ally, the beatitude is a form of speech (dis­course) that con­sists in pro­claim­ing blessed one or more per­sons in determ­in­ate cir­cum­stances or in cer­tain con­di­tions. It is a pro­nounce­ment of bless­ing that begins with the for­mula blessed is… or blessed are…. Hence, the beatitude could be clas­si­fied into two cat­egor­ies: (1) some­times an indi­vidu­al could be pro­claimed blessed because of the person’s status or due to an act that exists effect­ively (in real­ity), cf. Ruth 2:20; Ps 33:12; (2) in oth­er times, the pro­clam­a­tion of a per­son as blessed has a con­di­tion­al tone (char­ac­ter), which is an indir­ect exhorta­tion (appeal) to good conduct.

Mat­thew 5:1–12 belongs to the second clas­si­fic­a­tion. The Greek word ‘makári­os’ means blessed, for­tu­nate, happy in the sense of the priv­ileged recip­i­ent of divine favour. In this case, it means blessed is one who… or blessed are you who…. Those blessed are the poor in spir­it; those who mourn; the meek; those who hun­ger and thirst for right­eous­ness; the mer­ci­ful; the pure in heart; the peace­makers; those per­se­cuted for right­eous­ness; and those insul­ted, per­se­cuted, and falsely accused for the sake of the Gos­pel. Speak­ing about etern­al life and the need to live cor­rectly to be admit­ted by God in his pres­ence, Paul reminded and informed the Cor­inthi­an Chris­ti­ans (and the Nigeri­an Chris­ti­ans as well) that “…we must all appear before the judg­ment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back accord­ing to what he has done while in the body, wheth­er good or evil” (2Cor 5:10). ‘Accord­ing to what we have done in the body’ means while we lived here on earth. The beatitude is the explan­a­tion and applic­a­tion of the words of Paul as cited above. In and with the beatitude, each per­son will be rewar­ded accord­ingly. Note that the word blessed (makári­os) implies hap­pi­ness, sat­is­fac­tion, feli­city, joy, health, and well-being. Ori­gin­ally, it meant free from daily cares and worries.

The Moun­tain
Accord­ing to Mat­thew, Jesus saw the crowd (Greek: ochlos) and went up the moun­tain. When he sat down, his dis­ciples (Greek: math­ē­tai) came to him and he taught them everything lis­ted in Mat­thew 5:2–12. For Mat­thew, mountain/hill (Greek: oros) is very sig­ni­fic­ant in the mis­sion of Jesus. It is a place vis­ible to all (5:14). It is a place of solitude and deep con­tact with the Fath­er (14:23). It is a place of retreat. On the Mount, humans come close to God and God in turn, reveals Him­self to humans (cf. Exod 31). Hence, in Matt 5:1, the Mount is not just a land mass, but a place of rev­el­a­tion. That is, a place where Jesus reveals him­self and his expect­a­tions. This incid­ence also recalls the incid­ent found in Exodus 24:12. In Matt 5:1, Jesus is now the new Moses giv­ing new instructions/laws to his dis­ciples and invari­ably, to Chris­ti­ans. In this sense then, oros is a place of spir­itu­al encounter with God.

The Beatitudes
The list of the beatitudes, that is, those who are poor in spir­it; those who are humble/gentle; those who mourn; those who hun­ger and thirst for what is right; those who are mer­ci­ful; those who are pure in heart; those who make peace; those who are per­se­cuted for doing right, are at the centre of Jesus’ mis­sion. These people are declared blessed. Jesus care­fully out­lined the evils of the con­tem­por­ary world. If we sin­cerely and object­ively look into our lives, in our fam­il­ies, in your towns, in your com­munit­ies, places of work, schools, the soci­ety, and even in our Churches, we notice all kinds of poverty; arrog­ance (opposed to being humble, meek or gentle); people mourn­ing for one form of injustice or the oth­er; wrong doing and lies every­where (opposed to hun­ger and thirst for right); mer­ci­less­ness in the exer­cise of author­ity; impur­ity of thoughts and deeds; plant­ing of seeds of dis­cord and black­mail­ing (opposed to peace­mak­ing); and all kinds of per­se­cu­tion even and espe­cially in the reli­gious circles and among adher­ents of the vari­ous reli­gions. If you can avoid these neg­at­ive atti­tudes, then you are blessed.

When Jesus declares the poor blessed and assures them of the king­dom of God, does he approve poverty as a way of life, and as a mod­el? Abso­lutely no! Poverty in its var­ied forms is not only a ser­i­ous sick­ness, but also an obstacle towards sin­cere and object­ive wor­ship of God and of spir­itu­al growth. Poverty is not a state of hap­pi­ness and bless­ing, though it can become if accom­pan­ied by trust in God. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said he has been anoin­ted to bring good news to the poor (cf. Isa 61:1). This means, he has come to con­sole the poor and to lib­er­ate them from poverty (mater­i­al and oth­er­wise). Poverty is an enemy, which humi­li­ates and dehu­man­ises its vic­tim. Matthew’s poor in the spir­it refers to those who know they depend on God for everything and, who put their trust in God, know­ing that without God they are noth­ing and can do noth­ing (cf. John 15:5–8). The beatitudes are words of con­sol­a­tion and encour­age­ment. Con­tin­ue on the next page

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