I will be the first to admit that I did not know what the word “beatitude” meant. I could have probably rattled off most of the beatitudes, since I helped my kids learn them for school. I suppose I saw them as Christian ideals. I never considered them as rules for true happiness. Beatitude simply means happiness, or joy. Bishop Barron’s homily from Sunday really helped me view the Beatitudes in a new way. There are eight Beatitudes in total. Bishop Barron divides them into the four “positive” beatitudes and the four “negative,” or confounding, beatitudes. Here are the positives:
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Bishop Barron states that throughout the Old Testament, God is characterized as “tender mercy.” In the New Testament, St. John says that God is love. If you want to be happy, then you want the divine life in you. Bishop Barron exclaims that this quest to have the divine life within us is the central message of the Bible. Everything else, he says, is just commentary. The divine life is mercy and love. Hence, blessed are the merciful. But this beatitude reveals a principle of “spiritual physics.” When we allow the divine life to flow through us, we become conformed to mercy and more divine mercy enters our hearts. The more mercy we give away, the more we will receive. Bishop Barron emphasizes that this is a basic principle of the spiritual order. Barron challenges those who are feeling sad, lost, or full of anxiety, to be merciful and to find a way to show compassion. In so doing, your joy will increase.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
We will find true happiness if our heart is focused clearly, cleanly, and uniquely, on God and his mercy. Our lives can be very busy and very complicated. However, our hearts must be in one place, focused on the divine mercy. For many of us, Bishop Barron says that our hearts are divided. As we search for the meaning of our lives, we are disappointed when we focus on things other than God’s mercy.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
What do we hunger and thirst for? We have basic physical needs. But this question probes even deeper. Where is our heart? What is the most powerful and abiding desire in us? Bishop Barron maintains that it must be for righteousness, which means doing the will of God. It is not my personal will or my personal plans that matter. It is righteousness. If we hunger and thirst for doing God’s will, then we will find true happiness, and we will be “satisfied.” The trouble is that we hunger and thirst with our hearts for things that are not God and not the divine life. We hunger and thirst for the wrong things.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
If we have the divine life within us, we allow God’s mercy to flow through us. As we give this mercy away, we receive more of it. Before we know it, we become a font of the divine mercy, and this transforms us into peacemakers. Barron states that we sinners typically radiate the opposite of peace. We are hung up on our egos, our hurt feelings and resentments, and our fears and envies. Thus, we radiate unhappiness. However, is we change the focus and commit our daily lives to being about mercy, our lives will be about showing forth God’s light. We will be single-hearted and hunger and thirst for righteousness alone. We will radiate peace and joy.
Here are the “negative,” or more counter-intuitive, beatitudes. Bishop Barron states that these four are tightly related. He cites Thomas Aquinas as positing that we typically find four substitutes for God: (1) money; (2) pleasure; (3) power; and (4) glory.
Is money your problem? Do you seek wealth in the place of God? Jesus says:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Bishop Barron states that this is not a glorification of economic poverty. Rather, it is a formula for detachment. How blessed and happy we will be if we are detached from material things. Because we can then hunger and thirst for righteousness. There will be room in our heart for the tender mercy of God. Should we happen to have wealth, but are detached from it, we will know what to do with it. We will use it as a means of expressing God’s mercy.
What if pleasure is the thing we seek in place of God? Jesus says:
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Bishop Barron says that we should not read this as a valorization of depression. It is not a masochistic recommendation. Read it this way: How blessed and happy are you if you are not addicted to, or attached to, pleasure. If we are detached from pleasure, then we can allow the divine mercy surge through us.
If power is what we seek in the place of God, Jesus says:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
In this context, the term meek means detachment from power. Therefore, blessed are those who are detached from power. We should be focused on seeking righteousness (doing the will of God). If we happen to acquire power, we will know what to do with it. When people start seeking power with all of their heart, they become wrecked.
If honor is the problem, and this is what we are seeking, then Jesus says:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Are will detached from, and willing to let go of, the approval of others? If so, we can allow the divine life surge through us. If we can kick the love for honor out of the central place in our heart, then into that place can come the tender mercy of God. We can then become a conduit of grace. We can become peacemakers.
Thank you Bishop Barron for your wisdom. If you want to listen to the homily on your own, you can find it here.