This chapter unfolds what lies at the heart of the Messiah’s mission. Jesus comes to reveal the love of the Father and our pathway to enter into Divine Life. In the Beatitudes, Jesus compares the world’s view of achieving happiness with God’s way. When we go after the allures of this world as sources of ultimate happiness, ironically, we find ourselves moving further from true happiness. Our true happiness lies in God alone. We need to take on the attitude of God. God’s way is the one that leads to true and eternal happiness.
On the Beatitudes, Gray states, “At the heart of Jesus’ sermon is an axiom that is the heartbeat of His whole kingdom ethic: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” This new law is all inclusive in the way we treat others, whether friends or enemies. The law places on us a responsibility to love and forgive others as we would have God love and forgive us. This may seem unfair! We are imperfect…we are sinners…how can we come close to how God loves and how God forgives? We want and need God’s total love and total forgiveness, not the watered down version we are capable of giving! God knows we are not perfect. This is why Jesus dies for us, to make up for those imperfections, those failings. What can destroy us, however, is a hardness of heart that holds grudges, feels justified in anger, refuses forgiveness. Sure, we will stumble and fail in our goal to be perfect in our mercy and forgiveness, but each failure can be an opportunity to do a little better…to love more…to show greater mercy.
– Deacon Ralph
Chapter 4 draws our attention to God’s call to each of us to be holy [Lev 19:2]. Our immortal souls long for eternal happiness, which can only be found in God. Nothing of this created world will truly satisfy. So, if we want to satisfy our greatest longing (for God), we must reach Him, somehow, some way. By examination of the Beatitudes and the challenging sort of “Good News” that Jesus was imparting to those who were listening, we are led to this one simple point: We are called to a greater love, a love that is expressed through mercy. “Be merciful even as your Father is merciful”, a fine-tuning of “You shall be holy for I am holy”. If we want to evaluate our progress on the path to holiness (heaven), then assessing our practice of mercy is certainly a good way to do so. For it is our duties, faithfully and quietly carried out each passing moment, that shape us into holier beings. And if we really think about it, duty (obligations of our state of life – most directed toward our neighbor) and mercy are so incredibly synonymous that it boggles the mind. Do your duty. Practice mercy. Be holy.
Below are two of several discussion questions Dr. Gray lists at the end of this chapter. Feel free to comment on any of those questions or on this chapter in general.
- In what ways are the beatitudes countercultural today?
- Why is forgiveness still one of the most challenging aspects of Jesus’ teaching today?