The Beatitudes

This blog is going to be a different type of blog for me.  I want to look at my Catholicism and my beliefs and my life and try to piece some things together into a patchwork quilt.  I had the idea while I was sitting in Church yesterday (Sunday, January 29, 2016) as I was reading through the readings and pondering on a few things.  So, I thought I would start thinking about the Bible, the Church Fathers, the Catechism and my thoughts and ponderings on God, but wanted to keep track of them.  So, I decided I would put them here so other people can see them.  Not because I think I know a lot about these things — trust me, I DON’T!  Instead, if I make myself vulnerable, hopefully other people will read these thoughts and help me clarify them, or point out where I am in error.  We can learn from each other so long as we take the time to try.

So, here goes the first entry….

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The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:3-12 (Latin Vulgate)

3:  beati pauperes spiritu quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum 

4:  beati mites quoniam ipsi possidebunt terram 

5:  beati qui lugent quoniam ipsi consolabuntur 

6:  beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt iustitiam quoniam ipsi saturabuntur 

7:  beati misericordes quia ipsi misericordiam consequentur 

8:  beati mundo corde quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt 

9:  beati pacifici quoniam filii Dei vocabuntur 

10:  beati qui persecutionem patiuntur propter iustitiam quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum 

11:  beati estis cum maledixerint vobis et persecuti vos fuerint et dixerint omne malum adversum vos mentientes propter me (12) gaudete et exultate quoniam merces vestra copiosa est in caelis sic enim persecuti sunt prophetas qui fuerunt ante vos

Matthew 5:3-12 (ESV)

3:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5:  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7:  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10:  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11:  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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– I –

The Gospel reading was The Beatitudes, a very important piece of the the Gospel for everyone.  Pope Benedict XVI has this to say: (Note 1)

“But what are the Beatitudes? First of all, they are situated within a long tradition of Old Testament teachings, such as we find in Psalm 1 and in the parallel text at Jeremiah 17: 7– 8: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. These are words of promise. At the same time, though, they are criteria for the discernment of spirits and so they prove to be directions for finding the right path. The setting in which Luke frames the Sermon on the Mount clarifies to whom the Beatitudes of Jesus are addressed: “He lifted up his eyes on his disciples.” The individual Beatitudes are the fruit of this looking upon the disciples; they describe what might be called the actual condition of Jesus’ disciples: They are poor, hungry, weeping men; they are hated and persecuted (cf. Lk 6: 20ff.). These statements are meant to list practical, but also theological, attributes of the disciples of Jesus— of those who have set out to follow Jesus and have become his family. 

“Yet the menacing empirical situation in which Jesus sees his followers becomes a promise when his looking upon them is illuminated in the light of the Father. The Beatitudes, spoken with the community of Jesus’ disciples in view, are paradoxes— the standards of the world are turned upside down as soon as things are seen in the right perspective, which is to say, in terms of God’s values, so different from those of the world. It is precisely those who are poor in worldly terms, those thought of as lost souls, who are the truly fortunate ones, the blessed, who have every reason to rejoice and exult in the midst of their sufferings. The Beatitudes are promises resplendent with the new image of the world and of man inaugurated by Jesus, his “transformation of values.” They are eschatological promises. This must not, however, be taken to mean that the joy they proclaim is postponed until some infinitely remote future or applies exclusively to the next world. When man begins to see and to live from God’s perspective, when he is a companion on Jesus’ way, then he lives by new standards, and something of the éschaton, of the reality to come, is already present. Jesus brings joy into the midst of affliction. 

“The paradoxes that Jesus presents in the Beatitudes express the believer’s true situation in the world in similar terms to those repeatedly used by Paul to describe his experience of living and suffering as an Apostle: “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6: 8– 10). “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4: 8– 9). What the Beatitudes in Luke’s Gospel present as a consolation and a promise, Paul presents as the lived experience of the apostle. He considers that he has been made “last of all,” a man under a death sentence, a spectacle to the world, homeless, calumniated, despised (cf. 1 Cor 4: 9– 13). And yet he experiences a boundless joy. As the one who has been handed over, who has given himself away in order to bring Christ to men, he experiences the interconnectedness of Cross and Resurrection: We are handed over to death “so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4: 11). In his messengers Christ himself still suffers, still hangs on the Cross. And yet he is risen, irrevocably risen. Although Jesus’ messenger in this world is still living the story of Jesus’ suffering, the splendor of the Resurrection shines through, and it brings a joy, a “blessedness,” greater than the happiness he could formerly have experienced on worldly paths. It is only now that he realizes what real “happiness,” what true “blessedness” is, and, in so doing, notices the paltriness of what by conventional standards must be considered satisfaction and happiness. 

“The paradoxes that Saint Paul experienced in his life, which correspond to the paradoxes of the Beatitudes, thus display the same thing that John expresses in yet another way when he calls the Lord’s Cross an “exaltation,” an elevation to God’s throne on high. John brings Cross and Resurrection, Cross and exaltation together in a single word, because for him the one is in fact inseparable from the  other. The Cross is the act of the “exodus,” the act of love that is accomplished to the uttermost and reaches “to the end” (Jn 13: 1). And so it is the place of glory— the place of true contact and union with God, who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4: 7, 16). This Johannine vision, then, is the ne plus ultra in concentrating the paradoxes of the Beatitudes and bringing them within reach of our understanding. 

“This reflection upon Paul and John has shown us two things. First, the Beatitudes express the meaning of discipleship. They become more concrete and real the more completely the disciple dedicates himself to service in the way that is illustrated for us in the life of Saint Paul. What the Beatitudes mean cannot be expressed in purely theoretical terms; it is proclaimed in the life and suffering, and in the mysterious joy, of the disciple who gives himself over completely to following the Lord. This leads to the second point: the Christological character of the Beatitudes. The disciple is bound to the mystery of Christ. His life is immersed in communion with Christ: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20). The Beatitudes are the transposition of Cross and Resurrection into discipleship. But they apply to the disciple because they were first paradigmatically lived by Christ himself. 

“This becomes even more evident if we turn now to consider Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5: 3– 12). Anyone who reads Matthew’s text attentively will realize that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of his figure. He who has no place to lay his head (cf. Mt 8: 20) is truly poor; he who can say, “Come to me… for I am meek and lowly in heart” (cf. Mt 11: 28– 29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God. He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God’s sake. The Beatitudes display the mystery of Christ himself, and they call us into communion with him. But precisely because of their hidden Christological character, the Beatitudes are also a road map for the Church, which recognizes in them the model of what she herself should be. They are directions for discipleship, directions that concern every individual, even though— according to the variety of callings— they do so differently for each person.”

The Priest capped off his homily on the Beatitudes with this gem of a quote, “You have to see the face of God in others, but you have to see His face in yourself, first.”

Suffice it to say, I can’t do a better job of explaining this than Pope Benedict XVI did, so I’ll let his explanation stand for the Beatitudes.

I skipped ahead to the Beatitudes, because they were the crux of this Sunday’s Mass.  But, the other readings were no less important, and no less impactful (and directly relate to the Beatitudes).  I had some thoughts as we were reading them, though and wanted to share.

– II –

The first reading from Zephaniah 2:3 and 3:12-13 (ESV):

“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,

who do his just commands;

seek righteousness; seek humility;

perhaps you may be hidden

on the day of the anger of the Lord.

“But I will leave in your midst

a people humble and lowly.

They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,

those who are left in Israel;

they shall do no injustice

and speak no lies,

nor shall there be found in their mouth

a deceitful tongue.

For they shall graze and lie down,

and none shall make them afraid.”

I noted in my Magnificat (Note 2), “This sounds like Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation on the church in the future, and also Cardinal George’s.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s (then Cardinal Ratzinger) exhortation: (Note 3)

“Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship. 

“The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism of the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

“And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

Francis Cardinal George’s exhortation: (Note 4)

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

– III –

Finally, the second reading from I Corinthians 1:26-31 (ESV):

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The underlined portion above I underlined in my Magnificat and wrote, “A parallel for our current political climate? Is this what God is doing?”  I don’t know if it is, or if it was just some silly thing my mind turned to during the readings—so inspired by God or not is in the eye of the beholder (and this beholder doesn’t know).  But, if nothing else, I will leave this post with this, from Revelation 6:9-11 (ESV) :

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”


Notes:

1.  Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (p. 71-74). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2.  Magnificat is a daily liturgical and personal prayer guide that includes the daily masses that is published monthly.  For more information, here is their link:  http://us.magnificat.net/home

3.  Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Faith and The Future (p. 116-118). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition. (These were a series of radio addresses Joseph Ratzinger gave in 1969-1970.)

4.  The best source I have is this link:   http://www.ncregister.com/blog/tim-drake/the-myth-and-the-reality-of-ill-die-in-my-bed

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