The Beatitudes are the Promises that Jesus gives us. He promises that if we fully give ourselves to God, if we place ourselves before God, humbly, actively ask God to be involved in every aspect of our lives, we will be blessed. As I look at the Beatitudes, I see the 12 Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I believe that when I am fulfilling the potential I have been given, when I am fully alive to the possibilities and actualities of goodness that are within me and are available for me to pursue, when I am pursuing and achieving that kind of fulfillment, I am supremely happy, rather than momentarily happy because things are going my way. Moreover, this pleases God.
We can get into all kinds of theological discussions about using the language of “pleasing God” but let’s keep it simple. Let’s define that as being aligned with, in tune with, the Highest Good. That way, if you are an agnostic who does not have a personal God to whom you can be pleasing, you could think of this as the music of a symphony, or as elegant machinery. When we each play our true part, the one we were designed to play, this creates harmony, and the theists can say, this is pleasing to God.
In order to have deep and abiding happiness, my soul needs to be aligned with what it was made for. On our own, we have a difficult time knowing what our souls are made for. So Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. The word “Beatitudes” comes from the Latin word “Beatus” which means “supremely happy, blessed”. This means not just that God will be happy with you, i.e. bless you, if you are meek and poor in spirit, but that you will be supremely happy if you have these attitudes and attributes. These are what will make a person supremely happy. It’s not just about pleasing God; we were made for this kind of deep and abiding happiness! This is what is meant by the Beatitudes.
We can see the relationship between the AA Promises and the Beatitudes in the logic: If you do this, then you will experience that. The AA Promises say that, “before we are halfway through” we will begin to experience certain promises. The promises appear during the discussion of the 9th step which is about making amends — either making restitution, expressing sorrow, or changing behavior. Prior to the 9th step, a person will have acknowledged powerlessness over alcohol, will have searched and found a relationship with a God of his or her own understanding, will have acknowledged to God, to themselves and to another human being, the exact nature of the wrongs that he or she has committed, and humbly asked God to remove the shortcomings, the character defects. Many people thoroughly committed to the 12 Steps will each day renew their complete surrender to God of him or herself and his or her character shortfalls.
Let’s see how this relates to the Beatitudes. “Blessed are those who are poor in spirt.” Blessed, Jesus says, are the spiritual beggars. Blessed are the ones who come before God and say, Help me, I cannot help myself. I need you. This is what an alcoholic, or anyone working the 12 steps says in their 1st step. It is an admission of spiritual poverty, of not having the will, a spiritual phenomenon, to do things differently. Many alcoholics, and others who come to the 12 steps have all the intellectual resources imaginable. They have the knowledge, but they do not have the spiritual capacity, to do things differently. This is spiritual poverty: these are the poor in spirit. These ones who humbly place themselves before God and say, I am powerless and I can do nothing on my own that is good. These are the Blessed ones to which the first Beatitude refers.