In the Old Testament, the “poor” are lowly and humble people; they have little or no material possessions, and they put their hopes on God (see Isaiah 61:1 and Zephaniah 2:3). In the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven,” the Gospel of Matthew added the words “in spirit” in order to extend the Beatitude to everyone, regardless of social status. Thus, even the rich and well-to-do can be blessed with the Kingdom of heaven as long as they acknowledge their complete dependence on God.
The second Beatitude, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted,” can be better understood in reference to Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted… to comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning…” (Isaiah 61:1-3) In the Bible, it was common to put ashes on the head as a sign of repentance for sin. In this context, blessed are those who mourn in repentance for their sins, for they shall be comforted by God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The third Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land,” can be better understood with Psalm 37: “Refrain from anger; abandon wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm. Those who do evil will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD will inherit the earth. (Psalm 37:8-9)” We often associate meekness with being timid, but in the context of Psalm 37, the meek are those who refrain from anger and wrath, and they are not provoked to seek revenge. They wait for the Lord’s justice, and in doing so, obtain the Lord’s blessings.
The fourth Beatitude, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied,” is often interpreted as those who seek justice in the world. However, the fourth Beatitude becomes more profound when, as in many instances in Matthew’s Gospel, righteousness is taken to mean conforming to God’s will. For example, when John the Baptist refused to baptize Jesus, Jesus told him, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15).” Therefore, those who desire to submit themselves to God’s plan will find satisfaction not only in this life, but also in the next life.
The fifth Beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” is a confirmation that we must forgive others, so that God may also forgive us. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-45) emphasizes the same theme, as well as the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we pray to the Father to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
The sixth Beatitude, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God,” is better understood with reference to Psalm 24: “The clean of hand and pure of heart, who has not given his soul to useless things, what is vain. He will receive blessings from the LORD, and justice from his saving God. (Psalm 24:4-5)” To be clean of heart pertains not only to abstinence from lust or carnal pleasures, but to all things evil. When we set our sights on being with God in heaven as our ultimate goal in life, then having a clean heart is necessary; that is, a heart that is devoid of ill will, evil thoughts and desires.
The seventh Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” can have a profound meaning with reference to 1 John: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God (1 John 3:1).” The greatest sign of love from the Father is the gift of His Son. Any peace agreement among individual persons or nations can bring about peace temporarily, but true and lasting peace can only be achieved through faith, hope and the love of Christ. In this context, therefore, the true peacemakers are those who help others to know Christ the Lord and the Gospel; in doing so, they can be truly called the children of God.
The eighth Beatitude, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” again begs the meaning of “righteousness.” The First Letter of Peter gives us an insight on the meaning of “righteousness”: “But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. (1 Peter 2:20)” “But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them. (1 Peter 3:14)” Just as in the fourth Beatitude, righteousness means doing the will of God. The true measure of holiness is doing the will of God on earth. There are many different Saints in heaven, but all of them have one thing in common: they have all done the will of God on earth. Blessed indeed are those who are persecuted for doing the will of God on earth, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven!
After Mass this Sunday, Nov. 1, we need a few young men to help move these wooden boards and heavy boxes out of the way in the church storeroom. Last week, the sprinkler inspector could not access the test valve inside the storeroom because all the wood and boxes were blocking the way. We need to keep our storeroom clear of junk. Thank you for your help!
In the past many years, Andrew and Angela have been maintaining the ACCA website. But recently, the statistical reports reveal that it has only been getting 12 visits per month. In addition, we have to pay a fee of at least $150 per year to maintain it. Andrew and Angela recommended that we no longer maintain the ACCA website. However, we will continue to own the domain name for a small annual fee. Furthermore, we can set it up so that all future visits to the ACCA domain name will automatically be directed to the HNOJ website. Fr. Bill agrees with the recommendation of Andrew and Angela, and the members of the Pastoral Council also unanimously supported the above recommendation.