St. Matthew records the nine beatitudes proposed by Jesus for His followers. These are presented in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel. They are familiar to us, because they are found in that revered part of his gospel called The Sermon on the Mount.
The beatitudes, we may recall, attach to the pursuit of such wonderful activities, or attitudes, as being poor in spirit, or mournful, or meek, or hungering and thirsting for righteousness, etc. To live a life described in these ways is to gain beatitude, or happiness. This is primarily thought of as heaven, the reward for leading a life described as a life of the beatitudes, for this is one of bliss or happiness.
Now there are nine of these beatitudes, which Jesus presented on the Mount that has come to be known as the Mount of the Beatitudes. That is, Jesus proposes to achieve happiness, both in this life, and the next. It is wonderful that we have such a rich set of options, whereby we can gain a heavenly home, and the companionship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and with the many holy men and women who have preceded us there, as well as relatives and friends.
But a concern may enter our minds regarding the nine way proposed by Jesus. We may recall our Catholic practice designating as “blessed” those men and women whose lives have been marked by exceptional holiness, placing them on the pathway to sainthood and designated as “Blessed” before they reach sainthood. That is precisely how Jesus names these nine ways: the Beatitudes or the Blessed. Before we designate someone as Saint John Paul II or Saint Therese, we refer to them as Blessed, the very same word Jesus uses in laying out the nine beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are the meek, etc. This may lead us to suspect that these nine ways of achieving beatitude involve the same kind of holiness reserved for those on their way to sainthood. Or is the happiness involved with the beatitudes reserved only for those exceptional people about to become saints? If so, since we may not regard ourselves as future saints, we may wonder whether the beatitudes are within our grasp. Perhaps these beatitudes are more difficult to attain than we initially thought.
And that, in turn, may lead to further questions. These nine ways of attaining beatitude, as laid out by Jesus: must we achieve each of them, one by one, before we can lay hold of the happiness that is linked to them, or does it suffice to accomplish just one of them, whichever it might be, in order to gain the beatitude that is attached to its practice? That is, if I practice mercy fairly well, but none too well so far as the other eight beatitudes are concerned, does this suffice to gain for me the happiness clearly linked to it by Jesus? For I may honestly have to admit that I certainly haven’t done a good job with the rest of the beatitudes, even though I may have practiced one of them fairly well.
This question may cast a cloud over my candidacy for the blessedness that Jesus laid out in His Sermon on the Mount. Maybe so. But maybe no. For could it be that in my attaining at least one of the nine practices referred to as the beatitudes, I have, as a matter of fact, achieved, in a somewhat hidden way,