On the Beatitudes
by Pope Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We begin today a series of catecheses on the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel (5:1-11). This text that opens the “Sermon on the Mount,” and that has illuminated the life of believers and also of many non-believers. It’s difficult not to be touched by these words of Jesus, and the desire is right to understand them and to receive them ever more fully. The Beatitudes contain the Christian’s “identity card” — this is our identity card –, because they delineate the face itself of Jesus, His style of life.
Now we frame globally these words of Jesus; in the next catecheses we will comment on the individual Beatitudes, one by one.
Important, first of all, is how the proclamation of this message happened: Jesus, seeing the crowds that followed Him, climbs up the gentle slope that surrounds the Lake of Galilee; He sits down and, addressing His disciples, proclaims the Beatitudes. Therefore, the message is directed to the disciples, however, the crowds are on the horizons, namely, the whole of humanity. It’s a message for the whole of humanity.
Moreover, the “Mount” refers to Sinai, where God gave Moses the Commandments. Jesus begins to teach a new law: to be poor, to be meek, to be merciful . . . These “new commandments” are much more than norms. In fact, Jesus doesn’t impose anything, but reveals the way of happiness — His way — repeating eight times the word “Blessed.” Each Beatitude is made up of three parts. First there is always the word “Blessed.” Then comes the situation in which the Blesseds find themselves: poverty of spirit, affliction, hunger and thirst for justice, and so on. Finally, there is the motive of the Beatitude, introduced by the preposition “for.” “Blessed are these for, Blessed are those for . . . “ The eight Beatitudes are so, and it would be good to learn them by heart to repeat them, to have, in fact, in our mind and heart this law that Jesus has given us. Let’s pay attention to this fact: the motive of the Beatitude isn’t the present situation, but the new condition that the Blessed receive as gift from God: “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” “for they shall be comforted,” “for they shall inherit the earth,” and so on.
In the third element, which is in fact the motive of happiness, Jesus often uses a passive future: “shall be comforted,” “shall inherit the earth,” “shall be satisfied,” “shall obtain mercy,” “shall be called sons of God.”
However, what does the word “Blessed” mean? Why does every one of the eight Beatitudes begin with the word “Blessed”? The original term doesn’t indicate one with a full stomach or who is doing well, but it is a person who is in a condition of grace, who progresses in the grace of God and who progresses on the way of God: patience, poverty, service to others, consolation . . . Those that progress in these things will be happy and will be Blesseds.
God often chooses unthinkable ways to give Himself to us, perhaps those of our limitations, of our tears, of our defeats. It’s the paschal joy of which our Eastern brothers speak, which has the stigmata but is alive, has gone through death and has experienced God’s power. The Beatitudes always lead us to joy; they are the way to attain joy.
It will do us good to take Matthew’s Gospel today, chapter five, verses one to eleven and read the Beatitudes — perhaps once more during the week — to understand this very beautiful way, so sure of happiness, which the Lord proposes to us.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking faithful. In particular, I greet the Consolata Missionaries, and the Parishes, in particular, those of Castel del Monte and of Andria.
I greet, moreover, the educational institutions, especially that of Pescara and the Baratz Choir of Villassunta Baratz of Sassari. Finally, I greet the young people, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds. May the example of holiness of Saint John Bosco, whom we remember next Friday as Father and Teacher of youth, lead you especially, dear young people, to realize your future plans, not excluding the plan that God has for each one of you. We pray to Saint John Bosco so that each one may find his way in life, that which God wills for us.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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