Aidan Nichols on the beatitudes

‘The Beatitudes predict that if we are discover deep happiness at all it has to be – for disciples of Jesus, that is – via a list of fairly obviously unpleasant life-situations: in poverty, tears, hunger, and even being hunted down by agents of the State.

In these sayings, Jesus washes his hands of the future of any would-be disciples who are content just to make over a bit of their lives or income to religion. He makes an appeal that we should make over our selves, turn our personal world upside-down if need be. And the way of the disciple that flows from that gift of self is ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ because, typically, they are to find themselves without a bank account (poor in spirit probably means, first and foremost, voluntarily poor), bereft of things and persons they love, with an empty belly and under suspicion by the authorities. It sounds rather implausible, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, we have a key for understanding it later in St Matthew’s Gospel where the New Law is summed up in the twofold command to love: love God and neighbour. The Beatitudes are about the things that love will suffer, they are about what love will willingly endure, the things that love will find itself able to give, and to find satisfaction and even delight in giving. And these things are endless.

The teaching of Christ, then, puts a literally infinite demand on us. We can’t say, ‘No more’ or ‘That’s it’. His teaching admits no limits in what may be asked of us in the way of sacrifice … The Christian religion is a hard way. It is the way of the Cross. But it has the right to make an infinite demand, since it springs from an equally infinite succour, an equally limitless eagerness not only to help us but also to raise us up to share the divine life.

The heart of Christ wants each of us totally, everything about us: our intellect, our emotions, our energies, our talents, our surplus income, our imagination, our freedom. It wants them so as to consecrate them to the Father that God may be all in all, and we be who we were made to be, in God’s image and likeness.

There has to be a powerful element of reckless, exuberant, self-abandoned, love of God in our lives – ‘folly’ was St Paul’s word for it – or we shall never be on the wavelength of the excessive, ecstatic, mad love of God for humankind which made him enter his own creation in Jesus Christ and there be crucified to re-make us all’.

– Aidan Nichols, What Love Will Endure.


  1. Jason,

    Check out William Barclay’s translation here…”Oh the bliss of those who realize the destitution of their own lives, for the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven are theirs here and now.” (Matt. 5:3, etc.)


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