Every week I challenge the children in the parish as well as my own children to listen or watch for a particular thing at Mass. If they pay attention, and can answer my related question, I give out a prize. Usually I ask them to fill in the blank from the Gospel, tell me what book a reading is from, or otherwise tell me something about the Gospel or Mass readings.
This past week the students were challenged to count how many times they heard the word "blessed" since the Gospel was focused on the Beatitudes or Blessings of Jesus. Much to my surprise, the answers were all over the board. I heard everything from 9 to 25. My own son answered 22. "How did you get 22," I asked in disbelief after counting only 13 myself including the Responsorial Psalm. He told me that not only had he counted the ones in the Psalm and the Gospel, he count any in the homily and any in the songs. I have to learn to be more specific with children. I gave out a lot of prizes that day!
In the Gospel we hear the word "blessed" 9 times but traditionally this Sermon on the Mount is known as the Eight Beatitudes. I like the word "beatitude" because it has the answer to these often confusing sayings built right in. They are the Be-Attitudes or the Attitudes of Being that help us to live lives that mirror Christ.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit" - The Be-Attitude is a humble attitude. With a humble attitude we realize that we need others and God. We realize that we cannot do it all by ourselves but God made us to be interdependent. That humble attitude is a huge step toward the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Blessed are they who mourn" - The Be-Attitude is a caring attitude. With a caring attitude we see the plight of others and we are moved, often to tears, because of our desire to help them in their situation. Jesus isn't saying that we are blessed if we go around crying like babies all the time. Rather, He wants us to have a caring heart, an attitude of compassion, seeing Him in the least of our neighbors. In comforting others, we ourselves are comforted.
"Blessed are the meek" - The Be-Attitude is a we-attitude. With a we-attitude we realize that everyone has a role to play and none of the roles are more important than the others. A we-attitude helps us to see that we are all part of the Body of Christ and each person, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an important part of that Body.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" - The Be-attitude is faithful attitude. With an attitude of faithfulness to God we seek His will in all things. We realize that if we are faithful, God will take care of the rest and His will will be done. What was so great about Abraham that Paul tells us that he was credited with righteousness? He trusted God, he was faithful and believed that God would do all He had promised. It was that Be-attitude, one of faithfulness, that made Abraham so great.
"Blessed are the merciful" - The Be-Attitude is a forgiving attitude. I would guess, based on hundreds of conversations, that more people hold on to grudges than we could possibly imagine. Yet over and over God tells us to be forgiving, to be merciful as He is merciful. The Old Testament is full of God's mercy. Jesus gives us parable after parable concerned with mercy. Jesus shows us how to be merciful from the cross, forgiving those who were not even sorry for what they were doing. Is it any wonder that this beatitude ends with, "for they will be shown mercy."?
"Blessed are the clean [pure] of heart" - The Be-Attitude is an attitude of honesty. God requires us to be honest in our dealings with Him, with others, and with ourselves. When we are honest in all our areas of life, we have integrity, we have a rightly ordered heart and soul. It is only those who can see clearly, without the blurring effects of sin and dishonesty, who can see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers" - The Be-Attitude is an attitude of patience. With a patient attitude we can endure the trials and struggles of this world and help others to do the same. By our very presence, with a patient attitude, we become a rock upon which others may lean to find peace in their own lives.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness...you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me." - The Be-Attitude is an attitude of courage. With an attitude of courage we can face a world that no longer believes in God and in some cases is directly opposed to him. An attitude of courage does not mean we are striking out against all who are opposed to God. Rather, a courageous attitude enables us to stand firm in the face of opposition knowing that no matter what happens, God holds our lives, and maybe even our deaths, in His hand. This attitude of courage enables us to live our lives when the world makes fun of our faith and questions our beliefs.
So, today I want to encourage you to count your "blessings". Maybe those blessings number among the 8 Be-Attitudes, maybe there are 22, or maybe they number in the hundreds. No matter what, it is Jesus who gives us the prize for being able to count our blessings, for the Gospel reading on Sunday ends with these words, "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."
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