In today’s Gospel reading of Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus begins His Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

  2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

  4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

  6. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.

  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

  8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Here is a shorter version of the Beatitudes that has helped me step into contemplation about them:

  1. Happy are those who need God.

  2. Happy are those with self-control.

  3. Happy are those who are sorry for sin.

  4. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for holiness.

  5. Happy are the merciful.

  6. Happy are those who love with all of their heart.

  7. Happy are the peacemakers.

  8. Happy are those who suffer for doing what is right.

Someone once wrote that the Beatitudes are to Jesus as the Ten Commandments are to Moses. (Why didn’t we see the Beatitudes posted next to the Ten Commandments in court houses and schools before they had to take them down?) This is a good analogy because each seems to sum up the ministry of both men. The Ten Commandments are a key stone for understanding the Old Testament. The Beatitudes are a key stone for understanding the New Testament. Except, there is a big difference in their application and motivation.

The Ten Commandments are a minimum—a minimum set of rules to follow. Follow the Law and you shall enter the Kingdom. The Beatitudes are a maximum, something for which to strive. There is always room for improvement with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are all about attitude, be these attitudes, be like Jesus. God is more interest in your being than your doing (although doing affects your being). The Ten Commandments are about watching what you do, external control. The Beatitudes are about who you are, your being, internal control. True, lasting change comes from with in, not from with out.

The Ten Commandments are a starting point, which can lead a person to do the right thing for the wrong reason. The Beatitudes are a goal, a direction to walk, which leads a person to do the right thing for the right reason.

Both the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are important. The Ten Commandments are a starting point for the journey home to heaven; the Beatitudes help keep us on the right path.

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