From: Matthew 5:1-12a
 Seeing the crowds, He (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when He
sat down His disciples came to Him.  And He opened His mouth and
taught them, saying:  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is
the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall
be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the
earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they
shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall
see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called
children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed
are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on My account.  Rejoice and be glad, for
your reward is great in Heaven."
1. The Discourse, or Sermon, on the Mount takes up three full chapters
of St. Matthew's Gospel--Chapters 5-7. It is the first of the five
great discourses of Jesus which appear in this Gospel and it contains a
considerable amount of our Lord's teaching.
It is difficult to reduce this discourse to one single theme, but the
various teachings it contains could be said to deal with these five
points: 1) the attitude a person must have for entering the Kingdom of
Heaven (the Beatitudes, the salt of the earth, the light of the world,
Jesus and His teaching, the fullness of the Law); 2) uprightness of
intention in religious practice (here the "Our Father" would be
included); 3) trust in God's fatherly providence; 4) how God's children
should behave towards one another (not judging one's neighbor, respect
for holy things, the effectiveness of prayer, and the golden rule of
charity); 5) the conditions for entering the Kingdom (the narrow gate,
false prophets and building on rock).
"He taught them": this refers both to the disciples and to the
multitude, as can be seen at the end of the Sermon (Matthew 7:28).
2. The Beatitudes (5:3-12) form, as it were, the gateway to the Sermon
on the Mount. In order to understand the Beatitudes properly, we
should bear in mind that they do not promise salvation only to the
particular kinds of people listed here: they cover everyone whose
religious dispositions and moral conduct meet the demands which Jesus
lays down. In other words, the poor in spirit, the meek, those who
mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful,
the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who suffer persecution in
their search for holiness--these are not different people or kinds of
people but different demands made on everyone who wants to be a
disciple of Christ.
Similarly, salvation is not being promised to different groups in
society but to everyone, no matter what his or her position in life,
who strives to follow the spirit and to meet the demands contained in
All the Beatitudes have an eschatological meaning, that is, they
promise us definitive salvation not in this world, but in the next.
But the spirit of the Beatitudes does give us, in this life, peace in
the midst of tribulation. The Beatitudes imply a completely new
approach, quite at odds with the usual way man evaluates things: they
rule out any kind of pharisaical religiosity, which regards earthly
happiness as a blessing from God and a reward for good behavior, and
unhappiness and misfortune as a form of punishment. In all ages the
Beatitudes put spiritual goods on a much higher plane than material
possessions. The healthy and the sick, the powerful and the weak, the
rich and the poor--all are called, independently of their
circumstances, to the deep happiness that is experienced by those who
live up to the Beatitudes which Jesus teaches.
The Beatitudes do not, of course, contain the entire teaching of the
Gospel, but they do contain, in embryo, the whole program of Christian
3. This text outlines the connection between poverty and the soul.
This religious concept of poverty was deeply rooted in the Old
Testament (cf., e.g., Zephaniah 2:3ff). It was more to do with a
religious attitude of neediness and of humility towards God than with
material poverty: that person is poor who has recourse to God without
relying on his own merits and who trusts in God's mercy to be saved.
This religious attitude of poverty is closely related to what is called
"spiritual childhood". A Christian sees himself as a little child in
the presence of God, a child who owns nothing: everything he has comes
from God and belongs to God. Certainly, spiritual poverty, that is,
Christian poverty, means one must be detached from material things and
practice austerity in using them. God asks certain
people--religious--to be legally detached from ownership and thereby
bear witness to others of the transitoriness of earthly things.
4. "Those who mourn": here our Lord is saying that those are blessed
who suffer from any kind of affliction--particularly those who are
genuinely sorry for they sins, or are pained by the offenses which
others offer God, and who bear their suffering with love and in a
spirit of atonement.
"You are crying? Don't be ashamed of it. Yes, cry: men also cry like
you, when they are alone and before God. Each night, says King David,
I soak my bed with tears. With those tears, those burning manly tears,
you can purify your past and supernaturalize your present life"
([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 216).
The Spirit of God will console with peace and joy, even in this life,
those who weep for their sins, and later will give them a share in the
fullness of happiness and glory in Heaven: these are the blessed.
5. "The meek": those who patiently suffer unjust persecution; those who
remain serene, humble and steadfast in adversity, and do not give way
to resentment or discouragement. The virtue of meekness is very
necessary in the Christian life. Usually irritableness, which is very
common, stems from a lack of humility and interior peace.
"The earth": this is usually understood as meaning our Heavenly
6. The notion of righteousness (or justice) in Holy Scripture is an
essentially religious one (cf. notes on Matthew 1:19 and 3:15; Romans
1:17; 1:18-32; 3:21-22 and 24). A righteous person is one who
sincerely strives to do the Will of God, which is discovered in the
commandments, in one's duties of state in life (social, professional
and family responsibilities) and through one's life of prayer. Thus,
righteousness, in the language of the Bible, is the same as what
nowadays is usually called "holiness" (1 John 2:29; 3:7-10; Revelation
22:11; Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 9:4).
As St. Jerome comments ("Comm. on Matthew", 5, 6), in the fourth
Beatitude our Lord is asking us not simply to have a vague desire for
righteousness: we should hunger and thirst for it, that is, we should
love and strive earnestly to seek what makes a man righteous in God's
eyes. A person who genuinely wants to attain Christian holiness should
love the means which the Church, the universal vehicle of salvation,
offers all men and teaches them to use--frequent use of the Sacraments,
an intimate relationship with God in prayer, a valiant effort to meet
one's social, professional and family responsibilities.
7. Mercy is not a just a matter of giving alms to the poor but also of
being understanding towards other people's defects, overlooking them,
helping them cope with them and loving them despite whatever defects
they may have. Being merciful also means rejoicing and suffering with
8. Christ teaches us that the source of the quality of human acts lies
in the heart, that is, in a man's soul, in the depths of his spirit.
"When we speak of a person's heart, we refer not just to his
sentiments, but to the whole person in his loving dealings with
others. In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses
the expression `heart' in its full human meaning, as the summary and
source, expression and ultimate basis, of one's thoughts, words and
actions. A man is worth what his heart is worth" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ
Is Passing By", 164).
Cleanness of heart is a gift of God, which expresses itself in a
capacity to love, in having an upright and pure attitude to everything
noble. As St. Paul says, "whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of
praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8). Helped by God's
grace, a Christian should constantly strive to cleanse his heart and
acquire this purity, whose reward is the vision of God.
9. The translation "peacemakers" well convey the active meaning of the
original text--those who foster peace, in themselves and in others and,
as a basis for that, try to be reconciled and to reconcile others with
God. Being at peace with God is the cause and effect of every kind of
peace. Any peace on earth not based on this divine peace would be vain
"They shall be called sons of God": this is an Hebraicism often found
in Sacred Scripture; it is the same as saying "they will be sons of
God". St. John's first letter (3:1) provides a correct exegesis of
this Beatitude: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should
be called children of God; and so we are".
10. What this Beatitude means, then, is: blessed are those who are
persecuted because they are holy, or because they are striving to be
holy, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thus, blessed is he who suffers persecution for being true to Jesus
Christ and who does so not only patiently but joyfully. Circumstances
arise in a Christian's life that call for heroism--where no compromise
is admissible: either one stays true to Jesus Christ whatever the cost
in terms of reputation, life or possessions, or one denies Him. St.
Bernard ("Sermon on the Feast of All Saints") says that the eighth
Beatitude is as it were the prerogative of Christian martyrs. Every
Christian who is faithful to Jesus' teaching is in fact a "martyr" (a
witness) who reflects or acts according with this Beatitude, even if he
does not undergo physical death.
11-12. The Beatitudes are the conditions Jesus lays down for entering
the Kingdom of Heaven. This verse, in a way summing up the preceding
ones, is an invitation to everyone to put this teaching into practice.
The Christian life, then, is no easy matter, but it is worthwhile,
given the reward that Jesus promises.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text
taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries
made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of
Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock,
Co. Dublin, Ireland.