Growing up, whenever I heard the Beatitudes read at Mass, I used to think they were just another item on the list of things we Catholics are supposed to do. There’s the 10 commandments, the 8 beatitudes, and other things on top of that. I suppose it’s because it was the only category I had in my mind – “do this” “don’t do that”.
But if you notice, the Beatitudes are not actually commands. They do not begin with “Thou shalt” or “Thou shall not.” They don’t actually tell us to do anything. Instead, they describe eight life situations, which Jesus says – to the surprise of those who hear it – are “blessed.”
Generally when we think of being “blessed” we think of things like success, material prosperity, nice weather, things going our way, etc. But take an honest look at the Beatitudes. Imagine yourself in the midst of an experience of one of those things. Would you really call that “blessed”?
The Beatitudes reflect another way of living – not just one more item to add to our already overflowing list of things to do or concerns in this life. In fact, if you think about it, what are the Beatitudes but a description of Jesus’ own life? Does Jesus not fit into each of those life situations that they describe? And what is the goal of each and every vocation – whether it is to marriage, religious life, priesthood, or single life in the world? It is that Jesus’ life becomes more and more present in our own lives, so that He can live and love through us. It’s for this reason, paragraph 1717 of the Catechism says:
“… [The Beatitudes] express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection;”
We all want to be happy. But do we want to be blessed? The question of “what is my vocation?” is really just “how is God calling me to live my life, so that Jesus’ life and love will shine through me for others?” Then, as Jesus says, we will be blessed. The Greek word that appears there in the Beatitudes, μακάριος, (ma-car-ee-os) can also be translated as: happy.