The Heights of Holiness

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1–3

Today we are given the incredibly high calling of the Beatitudes to ponder. These lessons were taught by Jesus on a hill just north of the Sea of Galilee. Many were coming to Jesus to listen to Him preach and to witness His many miracles. They flocked to Him in this remote location, and Jesus had them recline as He preached what is now referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” This sermon is found in Chapter 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel and takes place shortly after Jesus began His public ministry.

What a way to begin His public ministry! This teaching of Jesus was brand new and must have left many people mesmerized. Jesus no longer taught only the precepts of the Old Testament, such as the Ten Commandments; He now elevated the moral law to a level never conceived of before.

As the people listened to this new teacher speak with new authority and wisdom, they may have been excited and confused at the same time. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful and clean of heart, and to be a peacemaker could have been accepted. But why was it that being poor, mournful, and meek were considered blessings? And even more challenging, why was it good to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness or insulted and falsely accused because of Jesus?

When Jesus’ new and radical teaching is clearly understood, it is not only His first disciples who may have been confused and excited at the same time. You, too, if you truly listen to His teachings and understand what He means, will find that you are challenged to the core of your being. Jesus’ teaching must be embraced, fully, and without hesitation.

The Beatitudes are our call to perfection. They lay out for us the path by which we travel to the heights of holiness and obtain the glory of Heaven. They are our fine-tuned and detailed road map to the fullness of happiness and joy. But they also call us to a radical transformation of our minds and in our actions. They are not “easily” embraced, in the sense that they require that we turn from every selfish tendency we have and choose to live free of every earthly temptation, attachment and sin. Perfection awaits those who listen to, understand, and embrace the Beatitudes.

Reflect, today, upon the beginning of this challenging Sermon on the Mount. Try to find time to take each Beatitude to prayer. It is only through prayer and meditation that the full meaning of each of these invitations to holiness will be understood. Start with the call to interior poverty of spirit. This Beatitude calls us to complete detachment from all that is not part of God’s will. From there, consider the importance of mourning over your sin, of seeking purity of heart and humility in all things. Ponder each Beatitude and spend time with the one most challenging to you. Our Lord has much to say to you through this sermon. Don’t hesitate to allow Him to lead you to the heights of holiness through it.

Lord of all holiness, You are perfect in every way. You lived every virtue and Beatitude to perfection. Give me the grace to open myself to You so that I may hear You call me to perfection of life and so that I may respond generously with my whole life. Make me holy, dear Lord, so that I will find the happiness and fulfillment You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.