The realism of the beatitudes

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

HAVE you ever regarded the beatitudes, as proclaimed by Christ, (cfr. Lk 6,20-26) a confusing doctrine, if not a crazy idea, impossible to be lived, and an exaggeration? Don’t worry so much about it. We can be sure that Christ would understand if we have that reaction. But we should also try to understand why Christ came out with those doctrines.

The beatitudes are actually Christ’s way of telling us how to be realistic about our life here on earth, marked with all kinds of negative things which can actually be converted into our pathways to heaven, to our eternal joy and the fullness of life. The secret is to follow the example of Christ. We can only understand and live the beatitudes if we have the very spirit of Christ.

We have to realize that the beatitudes actually expand our understanding of what would comprise as our true happiness by including those situations which we normally regard as unsavory and therefore to be avoided as much as possible and hated.

We know that these situations are hardly unavoidable. In fact, they are inescapable, what with all the growing differences and conflicts we are having among ourselves nowadays. If we have to be realistic about our life here, we better take the beatitudes seriously.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they who mourn, blessed are the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness or justice, those who are merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, those who are insulted…There can hardly be any worse predicament than all these!

Yet Christ reassures us that it would just be fine, and in fact he promises us a great reward, if not now then certainly in the life hereafter. And he is not bluffing because he himself underwent all those disasters and yet he conquered everything with his resurrection. In short, he has proven the veracity of this teaching with his own experience.

We need to study well the content and spirit behind the beatitudes by looking closely at the example of Christ. There we will have the reassurance that all the suffering and sacrifices that we have to go through, and the effort that we have to make in this life would be all worth it.

And to be sure, we can live those beatitudes, because Christ himself would give us all the necessary graces. We just have to train ourselves in the appropriate attitudes, skills and virtues.

The beatitudes 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.