The Beatitudes Explained and More


Life of Christ (Week 7 of 27)

Though I’m enjoying this book immensely, I have to be honest with you: I’m not in a season of my life when reading is easy.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love reading. I self-identify as a reading hobbyist. Asked what my ideal day consists of, I can’t help but include coffee and reading.

But it’s May Madness: school’s out in a few days, my work is piled to my ears, and there are health issues with both humans and farm animals.

In the midst of all of that, curling up with Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ isn’t exactly top of my priority list…until I have to write about it. (For everyone who feeling disheartened about this reading pace: I offer you hope. For those who are way ahead of us, I offer you praise. For those who don’t care, I offer you coffee.)

What I continue to love about this book, though is how accessible it is. I read these chapters in a few days, and I fought every second not to just skim and buzz through them.

And what struck me in this week’s reading was the way the Beatitudes are not so happy-slappy as I always thought.

Now, mind you, I’ve taught lessons on the Beatitudes. I’ve lectured both 5th-graders and Confirmation students about how ground-breaking they were.

But something clicked with me as I read Sheen’s chapter on the Beatitudes.

Two mounts are related as the first and second acts in a two-act drama: the Mount of the Beatitudes and the Mount of Calvary. He who climbed the first to preach the Beatitudes must necessarily climb the second to practice what He preached. The unthinking often say the Sermon on the Mount constitutes the “essence of Christianity.” But let any man put these Beatitudes into practice in his own life, and he too will draw down upon himself the wrath of the world. The Sermon on the Mount cannot be separated from His Crucifixion, any more than day can be separated from night. The day Our Lord taught the Beatitudes, He signed His own death warrant. The sound of nails and hammers digging through human flesh were the echoes thrown back from the mountainside where He told men how to be happy or blessed. Everybody wants to be happy; but His ways were the very opposite of the ways of the world.

Life of Christ, Chapter 11, paragraph 1 [emphasis mine]

OK, so the Beatitudes aren’t popular, but that isn’t all. My heart was moved as I read this explanation:

Why turn the other cheek? Because hate multiplies like a seed. If one preaches hate and violence to ten men in a row, and tells the first man to strike the second, and the second to strike the third, the hatred will envelop all ten. The only way to stop this hate is for one man (say the fifth in line), to turn his other cheek. Then the hatred ends. It is never passed on. Absorb violence for the sake of the Savior, Who will absorb sin and die for it. The Christian law is that the innocent shall suffer for the guilty.

Life of Christ, Chapter 11, paragraph 11

This idea of hate multiplying isn’t rocket science, but it was a thunderbolt to me as I read it.

I’ve lived this in the past. For that matter, I’ve lived this today.

And who hasn’t?

You don’t have to look farther than our news feeds or our playgrounds, really. We may talk of peace, but what’s fun is hate. We may not call it that: we may call it criticism or “keeping it real” or “calling things out.”

“The Sermon on the Mount is so much at variance with all that our world holds dear that the world will crucify anyone who tries to live up to its values,” Sheen writes.

It’s an important reminder: we aren’t going to get off any easier than He did. And we shouldn’t try.

Reading Assignment:

Chapters 12-14

Discussion Questions:

1. Where’s the hate in your life? How are you watering the seed and what can you do right now to stop? What action can you take…and how soon can you get to Confession?

2. Who needs your love today? What simple act of love can you carry out in the spirit of the Beatitudes?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

Read More:

For More Information on the Book Club:

About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She’s online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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