‘Beatitudes’ refer to eight attitudes that Jesus revealed as the path to true happiness. The Greek word for ‘beatitude’ means ‘the secret to happiness’. These beatitudes unveil the secret to being happy in this world and also in the next. In them, Jesus tells us what we must do to find true happiness. Happiness is not just about material wealth or talents; it transcends these earthly possessions.
The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament helps us understand this teaching. In the Old Testament, Moses was given the law on Mount Sinai. Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus, often likened to a ‘new Moses’, delivers a new law. This is symbolized in the first of his five sermons in the Gospel of Matthew, the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, which is at the heart of Jesus’ teachings.
In the Old Testament, Moses received the law on a mountain and brought it down to the people. In contrast, in the New Testament, Jesus teaches on the mountain, inviting the people to rise to a higher spiritual understanding. This signifies a transition from the Old Testament’s earthly focus to the New Testament’s heavenly orientation. However, this does not imply a hierarchy where the New Testament is ‘higher’ than the Old Testament; rather, both are integral parts of God’s revelation, with the New Testament fulfilling and building upon the Old.
The law of Moses predominantly comprises commandments on what not to do, focusing on moral behavior and societal order. The New Testament, while not negating the Old Law, emphasizes positive actions and internal attitudes that lead to spiritual fulfillment and union with God.
The Old Testament law is important for living a righteous life on Earth, but the New Testament teachings, particularly the Beatitudes, guide us towards heavenly virtues. When examining one’s conscience before confession, it’s beneficial to reflect on both the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. The former guides us in righteous living, while the latter deepens our spiritual journey towards heaven.
For instance, Ephesians 4:28-29 illustrates this deeper calling: “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”
A thief who repents and ceases to steal is following the Old Law, becoming a better person. To align with the New Testament, they must go further, working not just for personal gain but to aid others. Similarly, avoiding harmful speech is good, but the New Testament encourages us to use our words to uplift and support others.
The Beatitudes, starting with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3), call us to a spiritual humility and total reliance on God. This doesn’t devalue material wealth or talents but places ultimate value on our dependence on God.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt 5:4) refers to a deep sense of repentance and empathy for the suffering caused by sin, both personal and communal.
The meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who hunger for righteousness are all promised divine fulfillment and blessings, as they exemplify Christ-like virtues that transcend earthly standards.
Finally, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10-12) reassures us that suffering for righteousness is not in vain but a path to heavenly reward.
In preparing for Confession, reflecting on the Beatitudes alongside the Ten Commandments can provide a more comprehensive spiritual examination, as they guide us not only in being good people but in nurturing a deeper relationship with God and our journey towards heaven.