Matthew 5.1-12 …
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’
The Beatitudes form a beautiful piece of prose at the beginning of Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount. They have long been associated with the Church’s celebration of All Saints’ Day because they encompass both the positive and negative attributes of daily life that we each confront as we journey through the pilgrimage of our mortal existence. Jesus makes it clear that he understands the ups and downs we all have to face in this life. Jesus also makes it clear that even when we feel overwhelmed by the negative our calling is one of faithful discipleship and faithful apostleship.
In recent times the use of the phrase, ‘Bless you!’ has become commonplace. Not so long ago you would only have heard it said after someone had sneezed. Today it is different. Today it has almost been reduced to the status of a catchphrase, and especially when it is preceded by an expression like, ‘Ah!’ uttered in a patronisingly sympathetic tone.
The use of the phrase ‘Bless you’ as a response to someone sneezing dates back to a more superstitious age. In the Middle Ages a sneeze was seen as the expulsion of the devil’s evil influence from one’s body. The blessing offered after a sneeze was meant to be a protection against the devil’s return. When we say, ‘Bless you’, we should still be praying for such protection. But, we need to remember that it is not a magic spell!
In the Beatitudes Jesus reminds us of the difficulties we will encounter as we journey through this life. He also reminds us that, if we remain strong in our faith, we will be blessed. Let us pray that we might never forget the divine promise of blessedness as a reward for living the life of a true disciple. Let us pray that we might not only take that message to heart for ourselves, but that we might also share its joyous message with others, just as all the saints who have gone before us have in their own unique ways.