THEME: THE BEATITUDES: ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
READINGS: Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13 / 1 Cor. 1:26-31 / Matthew 5:1-12
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There are entry requirements for various levels of education. Similarly, there are requirements for entrance into heaven. In the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), St. Matthew presents us with what he sees as Jesus’ entry requirements for heaven. Thus, to enter heaven the believer has to be: poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and persecuted.
Poor in spirit: this means voluntary poverty. That is, one may be socio-economically rich but he/she is detached from the wealth, giving priority of place to the Giver of wealth. Therefore, a person who is poor in spirit is humble.
Mournful: this refers to a person who is sorrowful on account of the reign of evil on earth.
Meek: the beatitude with this term is derived from Psalm 37:11; ‘meek’ means being ‘gentle with others’ or ‘slow to anger’ or humble.
Hungry and thirsty for righteousness: this means a constant deep longing for goodness and justice and working towards their realization.
Merciful: this means not being vengeful but rather pardoning one’s neighbours, loving them, especially the needy ones, and loving even one’s enemies (cf. Matt. 5:44-47).
Pure in heart: this means faithfulness to God, loyalty to His commands and sincere worship of Him.
Peacemaker: ‘peace-making is closely related to the love of neighbour and hence to the beatitude of the merciful.’
Persecuted: this refers to one who is steadfast in the midst of suffering for the sake of his/her faith or Christ.
For the entry requirements to any of the universities in Ghana, a Senior High School student is expected to have a minimum passing grade of C6 (credit pass) for three core subjects and three elective subjects, out of eight subjects taken in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). Unlike the grouping of WASSCE subjects, there are no ‘electives’ among the virtues of the beatitudes. In other words, they are all ‘core subjects’ for all believers. One cannot pick and choose the virtues he/she likes and leave out the rest.
Furthermore, unlike the university entry requirements, where one is expected to have minimum credit passes in at least six subjects, the heaven entry requirement demands ‘credit passes’ in all the virtues of the beatitudes. In other words, one is expected to exhibit all the virtues.
In short, then, with the eight beatitudes, St. Matthew depicts what he sees as the programme of life that Jesus expects believers to follow in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. By the grace of God, may we be able to obtain ‘credit passes’ in all the virtues of the beatitudes. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis