Letting the Beatitudes Become Your Attitude
John A.H. Tomoso†
The Beatitudes, as recorded in Chapter Five, verses 1–12 of Matthew’s Gospel, are best understood as descriptive and not prescriptive or telling us what to do but rather telling us about what can be done and why and how. In the midst of human frustration, chaos, even death and defeat, the description of these Beatitudes is played out in all of history, even in our time, until the end of time. I believe the Almighty God is crafting a miracle of genuine, life-giving purity and righteousness from the imperfection of our human existence and experience. All of the Gospels describe this miracle through the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
The Beatitudes can be seen as not descriptions but also observations of how one’s imperfect life can be brought to perfection. You see, Almighty God is at work in us, in our ordinary and imperfect lives, inculcating and imbuing us with attitudes that consistently point us to a sense of moral responsibility. So, these BE-atitudes are really AT-titudes which remind us to think of others and not only ourselves. Given we are in an election year, I would venture to guess these attitudes remind us an election is really about us—all of us—and that how we treat each other and respect each other, is the stuff of government and governing; of how things are done through our doing and acting and not just our talking.
These Beatitudes should move us to think of the resources we have to nurture a sense of the common good that, together with our sense of moral responsibility, one to another, no matter our particular belief or choice. In my formation to become a Priest, Anglican theological thinking and writing convinced me these Beatitudes (Attitudes) are “sufficiently clear and straightforward … with balance, restraint, moderation, and measure.” They are, I believe, not only about the reality of Almighty God in our midst but also about the depth of our love given to us and that share.
Now, we should share love but it is a somewhat hard, a great ordeal of life. Yet, we are imperfect and so is life. But we journey through life to Almighty God’s perfection and we can, nonetheless, still enjoy life, ah, with the right attitude! So, these Beatitudes can be seen as testing realities that allow us to get to the common good and see others more perfectly aligned with who we are, who we are for each other, as we journey to perfection. The older I become, the more deeply do I understand these Beatitudes as part of the journey without which wrong turns on the journey, will lead me down the wrong road.
So, these Beatitudes (attitudes) lead, I believe, to Almighty God’s promise, as Matthew’s Gospel cites. These are promises about God being in control, truly mighty; about being comforted and a peace; about Almighty God bringing about a new reign (God’s ultimate control of everything), about an earth that is a true gift for our use and not our misuse; about righteousness or pono being the foundation of both moral responsibility and the common good; about mercy and how we treat each other with respect and compassion; about a final reward as we reach the perfection we’ve journeyed to throughout life. I believe in these promises; Almighty God does not lie. But it is up to us to make these promises; these good things real.
Almighty God is revealed through our imperfect human nature. These Beatitudes, which become our attitudes, are how we are and become Blessed. But we can only realize this if we are “poor in spirit, meek and pure of heart.” Ah, if only our imperfections wouldn’t get in the way and we would trust Almighty God for everything and trusting others too!
I have a suggestion. Let’s say these Beatitudes spring from a deep, loving relationship with God. If you don’t believe in God, let’s say they spring from a deep, loving relationship with everyone, especially those you love. Nonetheless, be a blessing. Mourn when you need. Be meek, confident you are a child of God or someone’s child. Hunger and thirst for justice. Be merciful. Be pure in heart, taking care to be honest with yourself and others. Be a peacemaker. Be courageous and willing to follow God or follow a good person you know and respect. Do these things as you are able and these Beatitudes will become your Attitudes.
One more thing, I hope you voted!
John A. Hau‘oli Tomoso† is a Priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai‘i and a retired Social Worker, with 42 years of licensed practice. Born and raised on Maui, he lives in Kahului with his wife Susan D. Tomoso, who is a retired Educator with 30 years of teaching experience.