Earlier this week, the Gospel reading was the passage in which Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. And most Christians are familiar with what the Beatitudes are, but not necessarily with what beatitude itself is. It’s not a word we typically see in any other context, so its meaning can get easily get muddled.
That’s why Monsignor Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father™ focused a Catechetical Corner this week on the meaning of beatitude. He explained, “One of the biblical teachings on what beatitude is: it’s the coming of the kingdom of God. Seek first the kingdom and everything else will be added unto you. So, one way of talking about our beatitude is that we are actively participating in and living the reign of God, the kingdom of God.”
You may have also heard the term Beatific Vision to refer to the experience of heaven. Msgr. Swetland pointed out that this is because, “Another definition [of beatitude] from the Scriptures is the vision of God. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Many spiritual writers in the Christian tradition talk about the Beatific Vision, another name for being with the Lord in heaven.”
Illustrating this definition of beatitude, he said, “You know, someone who is in love loves to gaze upon their beloved. They want to look, they want to gaze upon each other and just hold each other in sight. And of course, that’s one way of talking about being with God in heaven. Being blessed, being beatified, having this beatitude is to see God face to face.”
Some Bible translations use the word “happy are…” rather than “blessed are…” in listing the Beatitudes. And that is because the Catechism also teaches that beatitude is entering into the joy of the Lord.
Msgr. Swetland told listeners, “The Lord said, ‘I came that you may have life and have it to the full. I came that my joy may be yours and your joy may be full.’ So another way of talking about beatitude is entering into the joy of the Lord.”
“And last, but not least, entering into God’s rest,” he concluded. “Hebrews 4:7-11 talks about heaven as entering into God’s rest, entering into the Sabbath of God, if you will. Here’s how Augustine put it: ‘There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be, in the end without end! For what other end do we have if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?'”