“Blessed are the merciful”

Friends, our Gospel for today is one of the most beautiful and important in the New Testament: the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the eight Beatitudes. Why is it so important? Because it is the Son of God telling us how to be happy. It is the one who can’t be wrong telling us how to achieve that which each of us most basically wants. What could be more compelling?

At the heart of Jesus’ program are these Beatitudes: “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” These name the very heart of the spiritual program, for they name the ways that we participate most directly in the divine life.

One of the most important words to describe God in the Old Testament is chesed (tender mercy). The New Testament version of this is found in the first letter of John: God is agape (love). Everything else we say about God should be seen as an aspect of this chesed and this agape. Chesed is compassion; agape is willing the good of the other. Therefore, if you want to be happy, desire to be like God. Do it and you’ll be happy.

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