The beatitudes are found in two places. Matthew and Luke.
Luke’s are called the blessings & woes.
They actually may be more closely what Jesus said because they are in the Deuteronomical genre (blessed if you do this, cursed if you don’t).
Jesus was a good Jew… and he would speak to the Jews as they could relate and understand.
But Matthew’s version is likely more close to what Jesus meant, as blessings.
Moses went up the mountain and obtained from God the list of thou shall nots.
Jesus went up the mountain and gave people the heart of God in the thou shalts.
How can we make this assumption?
Because we all know that mercy and forgiveness are central to Jesus’s entire teaching ministry.
And…not to be taken as coincidence, the middle beatitude is:
blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
Even at the end of the discourse on blessings and woes, he emphasizes:
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Though his discourse might sound like Moses, he lets it be known that he, Jesus, is different.
We hear the same message when he says,
do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
And when he says that the greatest commandment, the one that fulfills the law and the prophets, is:
love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength
and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.
We hear the message of mercy in the Lord’s prayer:
forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And again, after he teaches the disciples how to pray using the Lord’s prayer as a prayer template, so to speak,
he reiterates: for if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.
It is important for us to understand that the overall message for us is to be merciful as God is merciful. Forgive as God forgives. And to remember that Jesus is the standard by which we are judged.
So, how can we be merciful as our Father is to us and as he requires?
Here is a list of traditional corporal works of mercy:
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To harbor the harborless;
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive;
- To bury the dead.
And the spiritual works of mercy are:
- To instruct the ignorant;
- To counsel the doubtful;
- To admonish sinners;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offenses willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.
Besides receiving mercy from God as we show mercy, what is the ultimate reason?
Matthew 5:16 tell us, Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.
It’s never about us.
For, as we did it for the least of these, we have done so for Jesus.