The Beatitudes, found in the fifth chapter of Matthew, are one of the most mind-boggling sets of instructions Jesus ever gave us. They include such things as “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” and, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” To the average mind, these instructions seem counter-intuitive. Is Jesus saying it’s better for us to mourn in sadness than to be happy? That it’s better to be meek and not stand up for ourselves? Not exactly. His main point is for us to break out of our worldly ways of thinking, and be free from the limits of four things we seek to be happy: money, pleasure, power, and prestige.
According to Bishop Robert Barron, the word we translate as “blessed” also translates into something akin to “lucky.” Jesus is saying “How lucky you are when comfort isn’t all you strive for in life,” or “how lucky you are when you can be meek and aren’t obsessed with power.” This last in particular was in drastic contrast to the worldly state of mind in a Roman-dominated age where “greatness” was often the measure of virtue. In addition, Jesus is offering the consolation that God will aid us– if we’re open to it– when troubles in life inevitably come. The ways of God aren’t the ways of the world. When we do the will of God, pressure will come. Persecution of many kinds– bullying, pressure from authorities, even violence– will come, but God will reward us for our efforts to further His kingdom –if not in this life, then in the next. If you’ve found the Beatitudes confusing, try reading them in this light. It could alter the way you see freedom and happiness.