The Beatitudes

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Dear Lord, those Beatitudes. Whatever did you mean by them? They sound like just a lot of pious talk to me.

My child, they are not just pious talk. They are the most important words I spoke when I was on earth. Did you know that?

No, I did not.

You didn’t know. My goodness. Those words I spoke are as important for the way you live as are the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament.

If they’re so important Lord, explain them to me. They sound very difficult to me.

Very well then. Let’s begin. I invite people to be my disciples, to follow me and not follow the ways of the world. If you live as my disciple I expect you to live your life with a different attitude to the sort of attitude you see on TV, hear on the radio and read in the newspaper.

In what way is my attitude to be different.

I ask you to live your life with the attitude that you see in the Beatitudes.

You still haven’t explained them to me. What does the first one mean? How happy are the poor in spirit. What do you mean by saying that I will be happy if I’m poor in spirit?

You are poor in spirit when you need to rely on me to live, when you need my help to face life. You are poor in spirit when you admit that you are a sinner. If you do not trust in me you are not poor in spirit. When you have made plans and all those plans fall asunder, then you need to turn to me just as I turned to my Father when I was dying on the cross. On the cross I said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. In that moment I was poor in spirit. When you commit your life into my hands, when you surrender control over your life into my hands, then you too are poor in spirit and will be happy.

Yes Lord, I can manage that one. But you also said happy are the gentle. Isn’t it a bit much in today’s world to expect me to be always gentle?

I understand fully that there are people who would persecute you if you allowed them to. I am not saying you should allow people to persecute you. When I said you would be happy if you were gentle what I meant was not to throw your weight around. Don’t try to overcome violence with violence. You can still look for justice, but please don’t look for justice by using violence. That’s what I meant when I said happy are the gentle. You have examples of this sort of gentleness, overcoming violence with non-violence in people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Right, Lord. But didn’t you really go over the top when you said “Happy are those who mourn”?

I think you misunderstand what I meant. If you understood properly you wouldn’t say I went over the top.

Tell me Lord. I want to see you getting out of this one.

When I said “Happy are those who mourn” I meant happy are those who are repentant, who are sorry for their sins, and sorry for the sins of others. I mean you to be conscious of the fact that not everyone lives the way I ask. When you are sorry because of that, then you mourn. I am saying it is good to let that feeling come to the surface. It is good to be sorry because of those murdered in Kosovo and Sierra Leon recently (1999).

Yes Lord. I am really sorry because of those crimes. I could say I mourn because of them. You also said I would be happy when I hunger and thirst for what is right.

That’s correct, and do you know that the correct reason for hungering and thirsting for what is right is because when others suffer injustice, I suffer injustice?

Yes Lord I know you said we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. But when I see one piece of injustice solved, once again I start hungering and thirsting for justice because I see another example of injustice.

Yes of course, because hungering and thirsting for justice means treating ourselves and others with dignity, and there is no end to that.

You also said that the merciful are happy. You mean that if I forgive others I will be happy. That is a hard pill to swallow. So-and-so is the greatest nuisance I have ever met.

When you pray the Our Father you say: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. In other words, you ask God to forgive you, and then you in turn promise to pass on that forgiveness to others. If you look at life from the perspective of others, as well as your own perspective, the world will be a better place and so you will be happier.

You also said “Happy are the pure in heart”. Surely, Lord, you know how difficult it is for a human to keep our mind from wandering. It is next to impossible.

You are right. You will have temptations until a half-hour after your death. But it is the way you handle those temptations that matters, just as in the same way it is not sinful to feel angry if someone steps on your toes. What matters is what you do with your anger afterwards.

I should say that purity in heart is not only referring to temptations. In fact what I meant was that you are pure in heart when you stand up for your beliefs even when this puts you under pressure. You are pure in heart when you live your life in such a way that your faith has an effect on the way you live. You are pure in heart when you celebrate your faith here every Sunday and then put it into practice during the week.

Has this got anything to do with politics?

Of course. You are pure in heart when you uphold my values in the world, even if this means that you don’t tow the party political line.

I easily understand why you said that peacemakers will be happy. We all want peace.

Yes, but I said that the peacemakers will be happy. I didn’t say those who want peace will be happy. I expect my disciples to go and do something to bring about peace, not just to want peace but to make peace.

Finally you said that we would be happy when persecuted in the cause of right, that we would be happy when people abuse us and persecute us on your account. This time you’ve really gone over the top.

Let me explain myself. Why is there persecution? Because there is a clash between two different ways of looking at the world. I expect my disciples to have my attitude towards life and the world. As you well know, not everybody does have my attitudes towards the world and life. Therefore it is inevitable that there will be a clash of opinions. But I am saying to you that my disciples will be happy if they do not compromise, if they remain faithful to me even when it is not popular. I am saying that you will find real happiness, not in pleasing the crowd, but in remaining loyal to me. I will reward you, the crowd will not reward you.

I see that being a disciple of yours, following you, is serious stuff.

Of course it is. I did say that if you want to be my disciple you must take up your cross everyday. Nowadays people don’t want any cross. But I am calling people to convert continually, to model themselves on me everyday, not to allow themselves become tarnished and contaminated by the attitudes in the world that are the opposite to mine.

Lord, I think I have to go now.

Very well then. Together now, let’s recall my description of a disciple of mine.


Happy are the poor in spirit.
Happy are the gentle.
Happy are those who mourn.
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right.
Happy are the merciful.
Happy are the pure in heart.
Happy are the peacemakers.
Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right, when people abuse you, persecute you and speak calumny against you on my account.

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