1 Kgs 17:1-6
Ps 120:1-8. R. see v.2
Mt 5:1-12


Every time I read the Beatitudes, something different strikes me. Perhaps one blessing stands out more than another, or I notice a different translation between the Jerusalem and NRSV bibles. Today, I began to wonder to whom Jesus directed his teaching. Are the Beatitudes for the gentle, the pure of heart, the merciful and those in mourning? I think not, for these will already inherit the earth, see God, have mercy shown them and be comforted. While these words are both reassuring and loving, Jesus didn’t just speak about love – Jesus acted love, embodied love, for love is an action.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus lived the Beatitudes. He criticised the parabolic Pharisee who stood all-powerful, exalting himself and his good works, and lauded the poor in spirit tax collector who dared not look up but stood at a distance (Luke 18:9-14). Rather than condemn the woman caught in adultery, he gently reminded her stoners that they were not without sin (John 8:1-11). When the Syrophoenician woman challenged Jesus to act justly, he felt mercy and healed her daughter (Mark 7:24-30). When his own body hung from a cross, he forgave his persecutors, embodying the kingdom of God (Luke 23:24).

The Beatitudes still have profound consequences. Jesus does not simply console the persecuted but challenges the powerful and privileged to humble themselves and become poor in spirit. Rather than merely commending peacemakers, he inspires aggressors to be gentle. More than satisfying those who hunger and thirst after justice, he encourages the influential to transform their hearts and show mercy. Jesus is not encouraging us to seek out sorrow, abuse or persecution (least of all to blindly accept these conditions in his name). Rather, the Beatitudes challenge us to a change of heart. To encounter grief without despair, to meet persecution without apathy or violence, to show and accept mercy and, most importantly, to recognise our deep yearning for God and God’s grace.

Angela Marquis works for the Hobart Passionists at St Joseph’s in Tasmania, with WATAC (Women and the Australian Church), and as a primary school chaplain.