The "Beatitudes" given to us in today's Gospel (Matthew 5: 1-12a) are a series of nine reactions to events in life. Jesus must have surprised his disciples and everyone who subsequently heard them, since most people would consider these to be anything but blessings. Even today, two thousand years later, many would consider being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, clean of heart, persecuted (even for the sake of righteousness), insulted and persecuted to be avoided. Popular culture and opinion see these as going against the "me" mentality, which postures that no one should deny me anything or make my life uncomfortable in any way. I should be able to get what I want with the least amount of effort and hassle possible.
When I reflect on the Beatitudes, I see everyday situations in which God is giving us a choice. A choice to do things His way or my way. Now, Jesus is very clear that doing things God's way will not always be easy or comfortable. In fact, it is often hard and uncomfortable, even dangerous to our safety. But it is definitely a choice. And with the choice, we are offered a blessing. Choosing to be poor in spirit (humble) gives us the blessing of realizing that all things belong to God, so we are not attached to possessions, power or prestige. Mourning means we have loved, since you do not mourn what you did not love. Being meek shows that I do not have to bluster and bully my way, because I know what God wants. Just as food and drink are necessary for life, if I hunger and thirst for righteousness, it shows that I cannot live a full and proper life without them. Human mercy is more freeing for the one who dispenses it than the one who receives it. The clean of heart are able to see the hand of God in everyone and everything, hence do not think about abusing any of God's creation. Peacemakers know that you have to work (make) peace, because every person is a brother or sister. Persecution for the sake of righteousness shows that there are things bigger and more important than myself. When I am insulted, persecuted and the subject of evil utterances because of my faith, it means I have a powerful faith and a powerful God with me.
Each of these are seen by the "world" in a very different way, and many try to portray them as weaknesses. That is always the way that bullies (the devil) try to get others to back down. Jesus knows that we have the ultimate power to choose - a blessing or a curse. Today we must decide- do we have the strength to live in a way that enables God to say to us "Blessed are you!"?