the beatitudes

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Jesus, Gospel of Matthew 5:3

With His first statement, Jesus turns society on its head. He calls blessed the exact opposite of those that society calls blessed. And understand that it’s His disciples that He calls blessed…

Privation is the lot of the disciples in every sphere of life. They are the poor tout court (cf. Luke 6:20). They have no security, no possessions to call their own, not a foot of earth to call home, and no earthly society to claim their absolute allegiance. Moreover, they have no spiritual power, experience or knowledge to give them any consolation or security. For the sake of Christ they have lost all. Now they are so poor, so inexperienced, that their only hope is in Him that called them.

Jesus knows about the others, too — all the representatives and preachers who enjoy greatness and public acclaim, who are deeply rooted in the culture and piety of the people, and moulded by the spirit of the age. But it is not they, but His disciples that He calls “blessed” — theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven dawns on them, the little band who for the sake of Jesus live a life of poverty and absolute renunciation. And in that very poverty, they are heirs of the kingdom. They have their treasure in secret; they find it on the Cross. And they have the promise that they will one day visibly enjoy the glory of the kingdom, which in principle is already realized in the utter poverty of the Cross.

This beatitude is poles removed from the caricatures of it that appear in political and social manifestos. The Anti-Christ will also call the poor “blessed”, but not for the sake of the Cross, which embraces all poverty and makes it a state of blessing. He may fight the cross with political and sociological ideology. He may call it Christian, and he will, and that makes him a still more dangerous enemy…

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