Beatitude comes from the Latin word beatitudo, which means blessed, happy, or fortunate. Almost all of us recall the opening line of the passage: "Blessed are the poor in Spirit..." The idea is that if you live the way Jesus lays it out, you will be truly happy, truly fulfilled. But, as you know, the best things in life always demand the best we can be and the greatest effort we can put forth. The life of beatitude to which Jesus invites us demands no less.
Let me take advantage of my native language, Spanish (the language of God and the angels), to get more deeply into the meaning of beatitude. In Spanish the word is translated bienaventuranza, literally "good adventure to you." We all know that adventure means risk, the courage to defy the odds, the refusal to play it safe.
Listen, then, to how the Beatitudes would sound if we turn them into
bienaventuranzas and if we paraphrase a bit:
Good adventure to you whose hearts are genuinely with the poor:
you are under God's protective rule.
Good adventure to you who are without power:
the whole world shall be yours.
Good adventure to you who are hungry and thirsty for justice:
your cup will be filled.
Good adventure to you who look for truth with singleness of heart:
you shall see God.
Good adventure to you who work for peace:
you shall be called children of God.
Good Adventure to you who are persecuted for the sake of justice.
You, too, are already under God's protective rule; rejoice, be very happy, when others say evil things about you
falsely because you are mine. God is preparing a great reward for you. Don't be surprised, prophets have always
been an endangered species. (Trans. by J.L-B)
The original listeners were greatly taken with the poetry, but being realists, almost all turned down the invitation to that kind of life. The risks were too great. We who know from the record what happened to Jesus for following his own advice, could not blame them. Could we? When you think of it, there have been relatively few people who have accepted Jesus' invitation to the life of beatitude. But if it were not for those few, we would have lost confidence in the human prospect. We would also have lost faith in the God of life.
- Jorge Lara-Braud, "Oscar Romero: Beatitude Made Flesh," sermon on Matthew 5:1-12, January 28, 1996. The Protestant Hour radio program (now Day1).