St. Augustine describes the Sermon on the Mount as “the perfect standard of the Christian Life”…and the Beatitudes as the “centerpiece” of the sermon.
St. Ambrose says, “ the Beatitudes are meant to be directed inward towards our internal poverty and the attainment of spiritual peace as preparation for the spiritual combat necessary to save our souls and to colonize the heavenly country.”
Someone once criticized C. S. Lewis for “not caring for the Sermon on the Mount.” He replied, “As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of a man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.” [God in the Dock, pp. 181-82].
Two often I “skim” thru the Beatitudes and try to come up with a quick summary…”oh yes, this is what it means…. yes, I should do this or that…”. The Beatitudes really deserve study and prayer… they are too important to just give a side glance.
Many years ago I was in the midst of trying to decide whether to move our family to another state and ultimately leave “Corporate America” for a more sacrificial life of service. The beatitude, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”…. was frequently on my mind as I prayed. I was confident that we were seeking, were hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, for his will and purpose for our life ….. and were willing to pay the price for it to happen. I knew that ultimately we would be “satisfied”. This beatitude gave me the confidence to keep moving…. and ultimately we were satisfied.
So as we heard this powerful passage at mass on Monday, it caused me to pause and realize that I need to continue to take these powerful words to prayer. These are words of wisdom that can “prepare us for the spiritual combat necessary to save our souls and to colonize the heavenly country.” And this is very good news.