(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)
The first three steps advise the Christian to cast aside the worldly dangers of riches, pleasure and honor by saying that the poor, those who mourn and the meek are blessed. The lickerishness for wealth, unrelenting desire of earthly pleasure, and craving for fame will doom the Christian, leaving him peering up from the bottom of the stairs. Until he sloughs off these vices and embraces poverty, he will never even begin the climb. Poverty in the Christian sense means a lack of desire for money, pleasure and fame. Christ is the most famous person ever to tread the planet, and yet that does not mean he is not meek and humble of heart. Once this first section is ascended, the Christian can truly begin to focus on the second.
The second tier of three steps gives one direction in the spiritual life. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, and are pure in heart. It’s no longer about what not to do, but what to do. He must first have that sincere desire for God (hunger and thirst) which will continue the upward movement. Then a frequent practice of fraternal charity (merciful) elevates the soul as the concern for oneself becomes lessened.
Finally, being cleansed from sin (pure in heart) places him on the landing. Chastity is the virtue that must be cultivated to finish this moiety. As Christ placed Himself in the service of the Father according to His vocation and lived perfect chastity, so too must the Christian, according to his particular vocation, maintain chastity in order to keep a solid unity of body and soul, both directed towards the final segment.
The last hurdle is the most important and the most difficult. Blessed are the peacemakers, those who are persecuted and those insulted because of His name. Ironically, those who preach the Gospel of peace will in fact be met with violence. Those who intercede will be faced with derision and spittle. The persecution may be so violent as to reach the point of death (a.k.a. glorious martyrdom).
Which virtue corresponds ideally to this peaceful warfare? There is only one: obedience. Remember Christ’s words to Peter in the garden, “Put your sword back in its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?” This followed the agony in the garden and Christ’s complete obedience to the Father. The Father’s plan for every Christian is different. Each unique plan may be wholly frightening and sometimes confounding, but obedience transforms the terror into peace and the confusion into truthful clarity.
When this last step is finally reached, after a sometimes arduous journey, the Christian is no longer himself, but himself perfected by grace. With confidence and joy he may recall Christ’s words which end the Beatitudes, “rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”