We have seen the first and last Beatitudes. Yet, also the other ones have an important message for Christians of all times.
Here is a short review:
• The second beatitude talks of the ‘afflicted’. The Greek word penthountes means more precisely those who have an inner suffering, a suffering that makes the person cry. These are the people afflicted by severe pain, and they will be comforted. We know from the Old Testament that the Comforter is God (Is 51: 12), He is the one who removes the causes of suffering and recreates the previous conditions of wellbeing, i.e. comforting is not consolation, but liberation. In Jeremiah comforting is the return from the exile and a better life for all. In Job comfort is the moral consolation and the return to the previous state of prosperity. In Luke (16: 19ff) comfort is the reversal of the state of suffering. This beatitude does not spiritualize the situation of the afflicted—but we could translate it as oppressed—but says that God acts in history and these people are the object of God’s work now. God acts through the community. The verb here and in the following statements are in the future because the promise will become true only if the disciples accept the challenge of the first and last beatitude, where the verbs are in the present tense. We can now see that comforting the oppressed can become true only if the community chooses poverty and refuses to amass wealth which is the source of injustice.
• Blessed the meek, they shall inherit the earth. Jesus quotes Psalm 37: 11 where it is said that the humble, the dispossessed, will inherit the land. In fact, in Psalm 37 the meek are those stripped of everything, they are oppressed by the wicked. So meek is not the character of the people, but their social condition. These are meek for they do not react violently but trust in God’s action.
• Blessed are those who hunger for justice, they will be satisfied. Hunger and thirst are physiological needs, and their satisfaction is a sign of divine protection (Am 8: 11; Rev 7: 16). Matthew uses the word “satisfied” twice, here and in chapter 14: the sign of the loaves, a miracle of sharing. This is an important clue, for when Matthew creates such parallels he always suggests a deeper meaning to be explored.
• Blessed are the merciful. For the first time this word is found in a plural form in the Bible. In fact, in the Old Testament, only God is merciful. The only exception is the Just of Psalm 112: 4 (and that is the Messiah). Merciful is the one who turns the heart towards the poor. This is an attitude that flows from the first beatitude, only those who refuse to accumulate are generous enough to donate.
• Blessed are the pure of heart. In the Psalms the purity of heart is a requisite to enter the temple and have a vision of God. Here it refers to a clear conscience that allows the person to be transparent. The contrary of a poor heart is a divided heart, i.e. one incapable of loving God (you shall love God with all your heart, Dt 6: 5).
• Blessed are the peacemakers. Peace, in the Bible, is not the absence of conflict. That would be a reductive view of peace. Peace is all that contributes to a healthy, harmonious, safe, full, happy life. Peace is so identified with general wellbeing, something that we often have to fight for. Peacemakers are those who reject power, idolatry, wealth, as these are the source of injustice and create lack of wellbeing. They also commit themselves to transforming attitudes and reality, they identify the lack of rights and fight for their restoration (Mt 10: 34–36). Because of this they are identified as Sons of God. Son, in a Semitic worldview, is not only the biological offspring of a Father, but anyone behaving like the Father.