St. Ignatius tells us at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises that we were made to “praise, reverence, and serve God.” This is our purpose; we find the greatest level of fulfillment when we are doing one or all of these things. God is our beginning and end; “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 22:13) Jesus says. When we look for the fulfillment of our deepest desires here on earth, when we try to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts with created things, we find ourselves still in want. There is a thirst in us that even the whole world cannot quench, a hunger nothing on the menu can truly satisfy.
The Beatitudes are a list of promises Jesus makes to those who put their trust in Him. Those who cling to Him as their prize possession have everything; what is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul? (Matthew 16:26) Those whose sadness is deeper than the world shall be comforted; “will be comforted” in the Greek has the same root as one of the names of the Holy Spirit—Paraclete—which literally means “the one that comes beside.” God Himself will be your comfort when the world fails; He will come beside you when you are beside yourself with woe.
Blessed are the meek, for whom God is their strength, for His is the strength that conquers the world (John 16:33). Blessed are those who yearn to be perfect, as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48); you shall be perfected (1 John 3:2-3). Blessed are the merciful, for hearts open to giving mercy are open to receiving mercy, and you shall receive it. (Matthew 7:2) Blessed are the clean of heart, for even in the darkness of the world you will see God (1 John 4:7-12); a pure heart is the dwelling place of God. Blessed are those who make peace, for they imitate the Son of God who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14-16) and are thus children of God.
Blessed are those who suffer under the whip of the world because of their fidelity to God; theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. They are the poor in spirit, the ones who choose to stand under the banner of Christ, who follow Him to the Cross; they walk through life in the company of their King (John 15:18-20). Rejoice and be glad! For what you deny yourself for His sake in this world, you are rewarded even more so in the next (Matthew 19:29).
Such people—the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek—are called blessed not because it is necessarily good or blissful to be poor, sad, weak, or persecuted, but because God Himself has promised to be their remedy, their fulfillment. They are blessed—present tense!—because God’s Word is so final, so true, so reliable that Jesus did not say “Blessed will the poor in spirit be…” They are blessed now, in the very moment of poverty, of sadness: God’s Word is reality. Rejoice and be glad! You are not forgotten or abandoned, even if you must suffer the world a little longer; Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away… (Matthew 24:35)