Living the Beatitudes
By Gary T. Johnson
The Gospel according to Saint Luke presents the Beatitudes in a way that many find troubling. Here, the eight Beatitudes from Matthew chapters 5-7 are summarized as four, but with each Beatitude comes a curse:
Luke 6:20 Then he [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets."
After learning to pray the Beatitudes in Saint Matthew as prayer requests for others, Saint Luke is the place to begin living the Beatitudes in your own life. Once again, it begins with prayer.
Reflect on each blessing and each curse. Where are you in the continuum between poverty and riches? Not literally, in the sense of your net worth, but where is your heart? Do you hunger for the things of God, or are you full and content? What is the spiritual meaning of true poverty for you? What remains for you to do to?
What about your attitudes towards those who literally are poor, poor in the things of this world? What remains for you to do?
And so on with each blessing and each curse. Seek understanding of these polar opposites in prayer. Draw on the insights that you gained when you prayed the Beatitudes in Matthew as a list of prayer requests for others. Now pray for an understanding of the Beatitudes in your own life, both in spirit and in deed.
To my mind, the Beatitudes can be set aside any other passage of the Gospel, and they illuminate each other. Consider the story of the prodigal son. This story hinges on Luke 15:17:
"And when he came to himself, he said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!"
The Beatitudes might be summarized as "Blessed are those who hunger." "Blessed are those in need." Those moment are the turning point of our lives, when we turn to God.
Pray that the Beatitudes will illuminate your understanding of the Gospel.