"It's ancient history!" whines Chris.
Nick says, "Yeah, I like some of the stories,
but what's it got to do with today?"
"Sure, I know Jesus said some good stuff.
No, I don't know exactly what, but it was good," adds
"Well, I think it's just a bunch of do's
and don'tsmostly don'ts," Bernice concludes.
Such responses are typical teen honesty regarding
the Bible. You know what the Bible is and that it's important,
but at times it doesn't seem very relevant. After all, what
does the Bible have to do with homework, hanging out with
friends or cruising the mall?
Quite a lot, actually. But to find out, first
you have to read it. And a good place to start is Jesus'
Sermon on the Mountespecially the Beatitudes (see Matthew
5:3-10). You know which ones those are; they all begin with
"Blessed are..." and cover uncomfortable territory
like being poor and hungry.
Jesus' words are timeless. They inspired people
in the 10th century and probably will challenge 21st-century
residents. And they are ageless, in the sense that they apply
to all of us regardless of age. Times have changed since Jesus
lived, but people really haven't. So Jesus' words are for
all people at all timeseven 20th-century teenagers in
Some people don't want to read the Bible because
they think it is full of rules. The Scriptures do contain
a lot of rulesrules that can scare people off. After
all, none of us likes to be told what to do. We want to run
our own lives. "I've got parents and teachers telling
me what I shouldn't or have to do all the time,"
you may think to yourself. "Most of the time I don't
like them bossing me around. Why would I want to read the
Bible? I don't need anything else telling me how I should
I've got good news for you. There is one great
biblical chapter in particular that isn't all "don'ts."
It isn't even all "do's." It deals a lot more with
attitudes than actions, though actions will result from your
attitudes. Youth Update takes a look at the Beatitudes
now to see how they apply to today's teens.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
What would it be like to be poor in spirit?
Is being poor in spirit related to material poverty? Is it
possible for the Donald Trumps of this world to understand
this Beatitude or does Mother Teresa of Calcutta have one
up on them here?
Jesus is not implying that Mother Teresa has
more worth than Donald Trump. Both of them are God's children.
What Jesus is saying is how you act is more important than
what you have. Being a part of God's kingdom is important.
Being poor in spirit means keeping your worth
in perspective. What makes you valuable to God is not what
crowd you run with or what kind of car you drive, but rather
that you are God's child. That's good and something to be
pleased about. Everyone else is God's creation as well. That's
also something to celebrate. As far as God is concerned, everybody
Take a minute now to think of people you know
whom you consider to be "poor in spirit"people
who have their worth in proper perspective. Make a list of
attributes they possess. You describe them as:
Then consider the attributes you have that match
up with those on your list. You may be surprised how many
you can claimespecially if you review your typical behavior.
Everyone has good qualities. Recognize yours and then exercise
and nurture them. These gifts will help you further understand
what it means to be poor in spirit.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will
It's good to know that comfort is coming, because
we all have times in our lives when we mourn. You may lose
a grandparent to death. You could be separated from a parent
through divorce. You may lose touch with a best friend if
you have to move to a new town during your junior year.
This Beatitude says that it's O.K. to grieve.
It's natural, even. Everybody does it. Life seems to hand
out plenty of reasons for weeping. The good news is that those
who cry will be comforted.
How, you may ask? God, through the Holy Spirit,
consoles us. If you quiet yourself, become still and allow
for the Spirit's presence, that is. Many a person who has
been dealt a bad blow by life has felt God pick him or her
up when no human was around. God's spirit was speaking.
Those who mourn also receive comfort from other
people. Whenever someone reaches out to you in love, that
really is God acting through that person. We need to remain
open to the solace that God offers through our friends, family
and the Church.
You can be one of those people who reach out
and comfort the mournful.
Send a sympathy card or a note to someone
who has experienced the death of a friend or family member.
Smile at someone who seems lonely.
Call a friend whose parents have separated.
Write a letter to someone in the armed
forces who's stationed far from home.
In this Beatitude, Jesus is telling you that
sadness is a part of life, but so is comfort. Just as you
need others to comfort you when you are sad, you can be there
for others, too.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit
When we hear the word meek, the image
of a human doormat often pops into our minds, a cartoon drawing
of someone who lets others walk all over him or her.
Is Jesus suggesting that you have to let people
use and abuse you? No.
One of the main biblical understandings of the
word "meek" is patient. For some, being patient
is about as appealing as letting people wipe their shoes on
them. Impatient people like to be always in motion, on the
go. Who wants to be slow, plodding, patient?
But be honest. Don't you feel like you live
too much of your life on the run? You get up at the last minute,
hurry to school, then to track practice, then to Pizza Pete's,
then to work, then back home to watch MTV and do homework,
then to bed, then up at the last minute the next morning.
You speed through life looking like a videotape on continuous
In this Beatitude, Jesus tells us that it pays
to be patient. Slow down. Take your time.
Look aroundahead and behind, left
and right. Where do you find beauty or cause for wonder?
Notice something new about a friendthe
color of that friend's eyes, for instance, or which hand he
or she prefers to use.
Check out the sky. What color is it today?
Listen to a favorite albumwithout
doing anything else.
Start reading the book that's been gathering
dust by your bed for six months.
Daydreamon purposefor five
Take a few minutes now. Lay this Youth Update
aside and slow down. Think of some areas where you need to
be more patient. What are other ways in which you can slow
down, make your life less hectic?
Maybe that's what Jesus meant about inheriting
the land. It will be yours if you take time to slow down and
become a part of it. Otherwise you are too rushed to notice
that it's yours already.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
"I know what it's like to hunger and thirst
for a Whopper and a Coke," you say, "but what's
it like to hunger and thirst for righteousness?" It's
a lot like your Whopper-and-Coke cravings.
Most everyone wants to do what is right.
When you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you need
to do rightjust like you need to eat when you're hungry
or drink when you're thirsty. Spiritual hunger and spiritual
thirst won't lead to the nearest drive-through, but it will
push you into action. If this Beatitude catches on, you'll
find yourself wanting to:
avoid doing drugs or abusing alcohol;
study enough that you won't even be
tempted to cheat on a big test;
show up at your after-school job early
so no one will have to cover for you;
pray for guidance when you're in some
sort of a jam.
Jesus is talking here about more than generic
goodness. He's saying that you'll find your life richer if
you really strive to do right. That's not just avoiding what's
wrong. It's really looking for what is the best and right
way to live and act.
This Beatitude is one way to say that, while
it's important to fill the body with good food, it's even
more important to hunger for the right way of life.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Ever been around someone who was being picked
on? Have you ever just stood by when you could have helped?
That would have been a good time to show mercy, to intervene
on that person's behalf. You have many chances to show kindness
toward people who lack something you just happen to havesomething
concrete or, possibly, a talent or skill.
Invite that new classmate who eats alone in
the corner of the cafeteria to join your group for lunch.
Talk to the person in your class who doesn't
seem to belong to any group.
Help someone who hasn't caught on to the latest
chapter understand the homework assignment.
There are many ways to demonstrate mercy. Make
your own list of ways you could "show mercy" to
Likewise, there will be times in your life when
you'll need the mercy of others. You might find yourself the
new kid in school or in the neighborhood. That's when you'll
find out the true meaning behind this Beatitude. Others will
see the kind of person you are and have been, and will treat
you the way you've treated them. They will mirror your own
behavior back to you.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Have you ever had a really messy room? Has it
been so cluttered you could not find something you really
neededlike the other red sock? Sometimes hearts get
that waythey are so cluttered with the spiritual equivalent
of unmatched socks that it's hard to find God there.
This Beatitude states that when you work toward
housecleaning your heart, you will see God. Just as you find
things you had forgotten you owned when you clean up your
room, so too can you find God when you sweep and dust off
your interior self. Just like keeping a room picked up seems
like a full-time job sometimes, so does keeping a heart cleaned
up. You might need a to-do list.
Get rid of hateful feelings toward the person
in English class who started a nasty rumor about you.
Throw out feelings of selfishness about letting
a younger brother or sister borrow any of your clothes.
Sort out whether your current feelings toward
your boyfriend or girlfriend are actually love or lust.
Dust off your Bible and read it (especially
Spend time today planning your spiritual clean-up.
What things would need to be put away? or thrown away? Do
you need to just tidy it up, or wash it out with a fire hose?
List what you need to do to ensure that your inner self stays
in order. Maybe that will give new meaning to the old cliche
that "cleanliness is next to godliness."
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"How can I be a peacemaker?" you may
ask. "I'm not the President or a senator or even a voter
who can help to shape the nations of the world. I'm a teenager."
Yes, you areand this alone has probably started several
battles, if not a whole war. Even so, you have plenty of opportunities
to play the role of peacemaker at home, at school, at sports
events or at work.
Being a peacemaker is not something passive
but active. You are called to put your selfish interests aside
and help to resolve some conflict.
Bring together two friends who have disagreed
and help them find a way to resolveor accepttheir
Refuse to join in the heckling of the other
team's fans at Friday night's game.
Avoid arguments with your parentseven
when you know you're right.
Say "I'm sorry" to your younger
brother or sister.
There are many other ways you can bring peaceif
you put your mind (and heart) to it. Peacemakers are sorely
needed in a world that is far from peaceful. Jesus realized
that all true peace begins with peace between individuals.
That's why he calls us to work hard as peacemakers.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Not many teens ever feel persecuted for righteousness'
sake, right? Right! Of course, that may be because teens aren't
a very righteous bunch. Compared to some of the early Christians,
at least, you haven't been thrown in prison or put to death
for the faith. And that's what you think of when you hear
the word "persecution."
Perhaps the definition is too narrow.
While you might hesitate to compare the day-to-day
trials that come from living your faith to those experienced
by martyrs, you still face your share of persecution. You
do, that is, if you stand for the things you believe in. You
may face verbal persecution if:
you won't go to certain movies;
you choose not to listen to raunchy, tasteless
you decide to save sex for marriage;
you do your own homework.
People have been known to make fun of others
who act differently than they doespecially if they say
it's because of their belief in God. That type of persecution
is realand it hurts.
In spite of that, you'll find you're at peace
with yourself when you stand up for what's right. Jesus says
that's because it comes from knowing you are a member in good
standing of the kingdom of God.
So you see, the Beatitudes have a lot to do
with being a teenagerright now. They can be summed up
as attitudes, something you can be. If you will be
all these thingshumble in spirit, free to grieve, patient,
striving to do the right thing, merciful, clean of heart,
a peace maker and willing to stand up for what you believeyour
goodness will "give light to the whole house" as
Jesus promises in the same sermon that contains the Beatitudes.
And that's good since we all live in that houseour
worldtogether. Living these attitudes results in some
very real choices as you do the things and become the person
Jesus asks you to be. Through the Beatitudes, Jesus tells
you that there is a better way of living: It's a life of goodness,
comfort, peace and love towards all people. And this way of
life is not for adults only.
Youth Update advisers who proviewed
this issue, suggested changes and asked questions of the author
are Maria L. Bischoff, Claire Burkhart, Cleo B. Cummins and
Jill Ellis. All are members of St. Michael Parish in Brookville,