In the Ten Commandments it was Moses the Prophet who received the Decalogue from Yahweh. Remember the Thunder, the Lightening, the Celestial Phenomena put on by God to impress the Jewish people of what was happening on the Mountain between Moses and Yahweh.
The Beatitudes however were given by no Prophet. They were given by God Himself Who became Man. There was no human person as intermediary. It was God Himself Who gave us the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes were given to the Human Race which was about to be Redeemed by the Passion and Death of Christ.
|To imitate Christ is to live the Beatitudes. What if we do, Poverty, Meekness, Mourning, Hunger,
Thirst, Mercy, Purity, Peace and Persecution are ours. We are to enjoy Godís Presence even now in the measure that our wills
are conformed to His Will. Praise be Jesus Christ, eternally blessed are we if we do. What a joy for Eternal Life to bring
you this Master Teacher of the Way to Heaven.
By their Nature the Beatitudes are oriented toward Practice; they call for Imitation, they accentuate the work of man. There is the danger that we will become discouraged in experiencing an incapacity to put them to practice in our own lives, and by the great distance between the Ideal and the Practice.
In other words, the Sermon-on-the-Mount is the Decalogue, Elevated by the Son of God. And the Compendium of all of Christís Teaching, and in that sense, a Synthesis of everything that He wants His Followers to do, is contained in the Beatitudes. Our Plan for each of the Beatitudes, I wish to cover all Eight (8) in the time at our disposal, is First to quote from Christís Statement of each Beatitude, briefly explain its meaning as the Church understands the Beatitude. But, then especially apply the Beatitudes to our own lives, because, the Beatitudes were meant to be lived. Indeed, Jesus Christ lived the Beatitudes and a perfect restatement of the following of Christ is practicing the Beatitudes. We might remind ourselves that the Beatitudes opened the Sermon-on-the-Mount. They were given, not surprisingly, to the Disciples and selectively to them. And immediately after giving them the Beatitudes, Christ told them that they, those whom He had selectively chosen and taught, they were to be the Light of the World. They were to be the Salt of the Earth.
There are Two (2) Versions in the Gospels of the Beatitudes. In Saint Lukeís Gospel there are Four (4), coupled with what we call the Four (4) Woes. In other words, the Four (4) Beatitudes and the Promises that Christ makes to those who live the Beatitudes. And then in Luke, the corresponding Four (4) Threats, Woes if you wish, that Christ, shall we say, Promises to those who do not live the Beatitudes. Before we begin examining each of the Beatitudes in detail, let us be clear, for the Followers of Christ, the Beatitudes are not an Option, They are a Divinely Ordained Obligation. Having received the Grace of the Supernatural Life in Baptism, we have been given the Strength to live the Beatitudes and in Lukeís Gospel, quoting Our Lord, Woe to us, woe to us, if we do not live the Beatitudes.
First then, we are told in the First Beatitude, ďBlessed are the Poor in Spirit, for they shall have the Kingdom of HeavenĒ. What is Christ saying? He is telling us that we shall be Blessed. Where Being-Blessed means Made-Happy by God. In other words, we shall be Supernaturally Happy. In particular, living out the First Beatitude, we are assured the Kingdom of Heaven in Eternity, but already on Earth we are assured Happiness. In Christís Words Ďtheirsí the Poor in Spirit is the Kingdom of Heaven. What does Jesus mean? He tells us, we shall be, we shall be happy and experience nothing less than a Foretaste of Heaven here on Earth, on One (1) Condition, that we are Detached from everything in this World. That is the primary meaning of the First Beatitude. To be Poor in Spirit means to not be enslaved by anything in this World. Or from another perspective, to be Poor in Spirit means, to be Internally Freed and in that sense, Spiritually Poor, Detached from everything, everything, except the One Being for Whom we were made. What are we further saying? Whatever we possess, whether Materially-speaking or Intellectual-ability, or Education or Social-prestige, you name it. Whatever it is, before God, the First Beatitude tells us, we are to be Detached from everything in this World as a Condition, watch it, not only for Perfect Happiness in the world-to-come, but also for Authentic Happiness already here in this Valley of Tears. Our Hearts are to be set only, (comma) only, on the Living God and in the measure in which our Hearts are set-on Him, in that measure we shall experience Heavenly Joy already here and before we reach Eternity.
Second Beatitude. ďBlessed are the Meek, for they shall possess the earthĒ. Notice in each of the Beatitudes, Christ First sets-down the Condition and then He follows with a Promise. Whatís the Condition here? It is Meekness. Other translations have, ďBlessed are the GentleĒ, and the Promise, ďthey shall possess the earthĒ. What are we being told? Clearly, the Promise that Christ makes is not to possess land, so many acres, or least of all, the Earth as a Planet. Christ does not Promise, surely not for His Followers, Material Wealth. Almost Two (2) Thousand Years of the Churchís History tells us, the Promise that Jesus makes is Influence over the Hearts of others, provided we are Meek, One Translation, or Gentle, Another Version. We shall be able to Influence others, we shall possess in the Measure of our Meekness or Gentleness, hear it, we shall possess the Wonderful Power of leading others to God, but only, and this is Divine Mathematics, in the Measure of our Meekness. What then is the condition for possessing Influence over the Souls of others? It is Meekness as the control of the Passion of Anger, or from another perspective, and the Greek of Saint Matthew allows us to use either English translation, or Gentleness, in our Loving exercise of Strength. I didnít coin these words last night. In our Loving exercise of Strength, only Strong people can be Gentle. Meekness, then, is the Virtue of Temperance, which masters our Spontaneous Tendency to Anger. When weíre Opposed or Contradicted, or something-or-someone, as the expression goes, stands-in-our-way. Meekness masters Irascibility (low boiling-point). Gentleness, on the other hand, is the Virtue of Charity, which Loves the persons over whom we have Power, what a combination, what a combination. To have Power over people and to Love them and never show, less still Parade, oneís Dominance over those over whom indeed I have Power. Whether the Power is Political or Financial or Intellectual, or Social or you name it. Instead, Gentleness is the exercise of Charity. Where we exercise, and in English you hesitate using the word, Power. But we use it Kindly, Patiently, in a word, Gently. Power does not show its Power. Power respects the person over whom I, indeed, have Power, whatever that Power may be, because I Love the person. And hear it, hear it, the one toward whom I show my Love, though I have indeed Power over that individual, that person, in the language of Jesus Christ, is my Benefactor. Because it is by Loving others that we Prove and Show our Love for God.
We go on.
The Third Beatitude has Our Lord telling us, ďBlessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comfortedĒ. Again, what are we being told? We are being told there is Sorrow, which is pleasing to God. In my own vocabulary I distinguish between Sorrow and Sadness. And in using these Two (2) Words, I identify Sadness as Wrong, as Sinful, as Sorrow either over the Wrong Object or Sorrow, which has got out-of-control. But Sorrow as such, is, must be pleasing to God. We may say Sorrow is part of our life on Earth. Christ Himself, we know, Mourned; indeed, He Wept. And Christís Weeping, call it Christís Mourning, is a pattern of what our Mourning should be. Christ Wept at the Grave of Lazarus. We may, indeed, we should Mourn over the Loss of someone we Love. Whether it is a Loss by Death, as I know, I was just Ordained when my mother Died, One (1) Mass from beginning-to-end, I Wept during the whole Mass. But, as we know, there is Losing someone not only by Death, but by Rejection. Losing someone because that someone has become Estranged from everything that I hold dear. But there is another and deeper-form of Mourning that Christ Our Lord both Manifested and Teaches us to follow His Example. Jesus shed tears over Jerusalem. We should Mourn, Mourn over Sinners. And we look at our own Beloved Country, words cannot describe the depths, I mark my words, of Depravity to which so many of our Fellow Countrymen have Sunk. Adulterers, Fornicators, Sodomists, Murderers, dear God, are Canonized. All of this is, to put it mildly, Legitimate Mourning. Following, not just the Teaching, but the Example of the Son of God became Man in order to teach us among other lessons, how we are to Mourn, living as-we-are, surely, in the Valley of Tears.
But then the Promise, Christ tells us, ďthey shall be comfortedĒ, this Poor, non-Catholic, English Language, they shall be comforted. In both the original Greek of Saint Matthew and the Churchís official Latin, they shall be Strengthened, they shall receive Fortitude, they shall receive Supernatural Strength from on High. In other words, Christ Our Lord assures us that, like Him, we too are to expect to Mourn. But, we are also to expect to be Strengthened, Strengthened by that Holy Spirit Who comes to give us both the Light for the Mind, and especially Strength for the Will. To bear Unflinchingly and Courageously under the Burden of Life and especially under the Terrifying Burden of living in a Sin Laden World and Sadly receiving, often, no encouragement from other Human Beings, but depending on Jesus Christ to Strengthen us in carrying with Him our Cross.
The Fourth Beatitude: Jesus declares, ďBlessed are they who hunger and thirst for Justice, for they shall be satisfiedĒ. There are at least a half-a-dozen standard translations of the Fourth Beatitude. Over the years especially comparing the translation with the original Greek. I prefer the one Iíve just read. What then are we being told? Christ is telling us to Desire what is Just. Hear it and donít forget. What is Just? That which is pleasing to Him. In other words, we are to Hunger and Thirst, which in the Bible the Two (2) Verbs, to Hunger and to Thirst are the Strongest Verbs in the Biblical Vocabulary for Desire. We are to Hunger and Thirst for what is Right. And what is Right? Hear it, hear it and donít forget. It is an open, open Contradiction to the Philosophy of this World. For the World, what is Right? What I want. For the Christian what is Right? What God wants, in other words what I need. Believe me this is not a play-on-words, this is Bedrock Christianity. As over the years Iíve been telling both my students and people I speak to, thereís only One (1) Conflict that has ever been, or shall I say, Fought in this World, and that is between Two (2) Wills, the Divine Will and the Human Will. What are we then being told? That, provide we Desire, watch your Desires, this is the Secret of Happiness as locked-up deep, deep, down in our Hearts. Desire what you need, One (1) Statement. Desire what God wants, Another Statement. Desire what is Right, another Synonym. Desire Heaven and the Means of reaching Heaven, which is the Grace of God.
And whatís the Promise? What a Thrilling Promise, your Desires will always, always, be Satisfied. Over the Forty (40)-plus Years of teaching Theology, I never tire of telling people, there is only One (1) Definition of Happiness, and that is Unsatisfied Desires. So here it is, it is both that Simple and needless to say, that Hard. We shall be Happy if only, if only we Conform our Desires to the Will of God. And then, oh Joy, we will see in everything in our lives the Grace of God. Weíll have no Problems in life. Father, are you Serious? No, Iím not just Serious, I am Brutally Honest. Of course, you might say, but Iím not sure what God wants. My friend, very simple, Pray and ask for Light. Lord, what do You want? Though He tells you, you may still think youíve got a Problem. Youíre Scared, Pray again. This time, Lord give me Strength, I know what You want all right, but, oh dear Jesus, Iím afraid. I know you are, thatís why Iím sending you what you call a Problem. Ask Me for the Strength and youíll have a Foretaste of Heaven on Earth. Of course, of course, that will mean, of course, it will mean Carrying the Cross.
The Fifth Beatitude: ďBlessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain MercyĒ. This Beatitude, Christ made sure was enshrined in the Lordís Prayer. Forgive us our trespasses, we tell Our Lord, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. So what is Our Lord telling us to do? To Forgive others, to not dwell on their, well, what shall I call it, their Wickedness, no matter how Black you paint their actions towards yourselves, donít dwell on it. We are to Love those who do not Love us. In other words, and this is no Clichť believe-you-me, our Salvation depends on this, my dear fellow Sinners. We all desperately need Godís Mercy. Very well, what is the Divinely Infallible way of obtaining Godís Mercy? By practicing Mercy towards others. That is why Unkind, Thoughtless, Mean, Inattentive, Unjust, even Cruel people are put into our lives, we need Them. I mean it, we need Them, and you donít run away from those people, we need Them, They are a great Gift. They are Godís Provided-Means for His giving us Mercy.
Whatís the Promise? The greatest Promise that Christ could make was the reason He became Man. And, hear it, on the Cross, what did Christ say? Those who had Unjustly condemned Him to Death, nailed Him to the Cross, the Murderers, Christ as man begged His Heavenly Father to Forgive Them. And Christ made sure that before He Died on Calvary, that He would also Pardon, remember, the Thief who was Crucified along with the Savior. Thereís more here than meets the eye. It is not only, though obviously, of great Supernatural Benefit to us to be Merciful to others, that you might say, is the immediate logic of the Fifth Beatitude. But, as now almost Two (2) Thousand Years of the Churchís commentators have pointed out, the Promise, ďthey shall obtain mercyĒ, is not only Mercy for ourselves. By our being Merciful toward others who can be very Offensive to us, that too, but also, we obtain Mercy for the very ones who are Offensive, who Hurt us. God has given me the Privilege over the years of my Priesthood to have experienced enough Rejection and of Opposition, and Sadly, from some people that Iíve done some Great Favors for. In other words, it is not only that Mercy is Promised to us because we are Merciful, but Mercy is Promised to those toward whom we show Mercy. We merit Mercy for them and may well be, donít forget this, it may well be, that our Merciful Forgiveness of those who have maybe Cruelly Betrayed us, even Hated us, may be the condition that Christ attaches to giving these people His Grace of Merciful Repentance. And that, of course, in one sentence is precisely what Jesus Christ did. Surely, surely, He did not need to have His own sins forgiven. But, His Mercy toward those who were so Cruel toward Him, His Mercy Merited the Mercy from His Heavenly Father, for the very ones, who except for His Mercy toward them, would not have obtained Mercy from the Heavenly Father to be Saved themselves. More than any of us realize, we hold the Salvation of Souls in the Palms-of-our-Hands.
We go on.
The Sixth Beatitude: ďBlessed are the Clean of Heart, for they shall see GodĒ. There are Two (2) Kinds of Purity expressed in the Sixth Beatitude. There is the Purity from Sin and thereís the Purity of Chastity. Both forms of Purity are understood in the Sixth Beatitude.
And what is Christís Promise? Both forms of Purity, Purity from Sin and Purity of Chastity, are Promised by Christ an Extraordinary-Ability to see God. In other words, there is nothing, nothing which so Enlightens the Human Mind in being able to see with the Eyes-of-Faith what God has revealed, as a Clean Heart. How this needs to be underlined, indeed I would add, etched in bronze. The more Pure a personís Heart is, Pure in not being Stained-with-Sin, Pure in living a Chaste Life, a Sinless Heart, a Chaste Heart, the more is assured by Christ, a Mind that can see and penetrate into Mysteries that the most Superb Intellect cannot penetrate. Forty-Seven (47) Years in the Priesthood have taught me volumes, one thing Iíve learned, there is no Mind so Black, so Dark, so Blind, as the Mind whose Heart is filled with Sin. Sinners are Blind. They are Blind. The First Thing I tell people to learn about those who write books in, you name it what, Theology, Spirituality, Biblical Studies, you name it, find out what kind of lives those people are living. If they are living Humble, Obedient, Chaste lives, you can Trust the Writing, otherwise, donít touch their books. Oh what names I could give, but Prudence tells me to withhold. Some years ago I was giving some lectures at the University of Michigan, had dinner with the Catholic Chaplain at the University. In the course of the conversation, he told me that not a few of the Catholics come to him and they tell him, ďI canít believe all this the Catholic Church is teachingĒ. So I tell them, ďsit downĒ and my First Question is, ďHowís your sex life?Ē ďMy sex life, whatís that got to do with what Iím telling you?Ē He tells them, ďEverythingĒ. A Pure Heart is joined to a Perceptive Mind.
At the end of his Treatise On the Incarnation, Saint Athanasius remarked: "He that would comprehend the Mind of those who speak of God must needs begin by Washing and Cleansing his Soul".
The Seventh Beatitude: ďBlessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of GodĒ. A word at least should be said about what Peace is, to make sense of what a Peacemaker is. There are Two (2) Kinds of Peace. I never tire telling people. There is Peace of Mind and Peace of Heart.
Peace of Mind is, the experience of knowing the Truth. For which there is no substitute under Heaven. Thatís why America, my figures are Seventy Million (70,000,000) Americans, are using some kind of medically prescribed Tranquilizers. Theyíre not at Peace. They are Starving for the Truth.
Whatís Peace of Heart? If Peace of Mind is the experience of knowing the Truth, Peace of Heart is the experience of doing the Will of God. Oh, how this needs to be, this time, carved in granite. With a Graduate Degree in Psychology, I can tell you it contradicts most of what, at least, Psychotherapists will tell you. You have Peace of Heart, in their Vocabulary, when you do your Own Will. That is not just a Lie, that is a Demonic Lie. Peace of Heart can be experienced only by those who are doing Godís Will, and thatís a Divinely Mathematical Proportion (α) [Peace of Heart α Conformity to the Will of God]. Our Hearts will be as much at Peace as we are doing the Will of God.
So then what is Peacemaking? Evidently it means, assisting others, First in acquiring Peace of Mind, teaching them the Truth. How many people admire Peace of Heart? Telling them what is Godís Will, and of course, reconciling people who are estranged from each other. Hear it. Hear it. Only people who are at Peace within-themselves can be at Peace with-others. I repeat, no one else can be at Peace with another person, unless he or she is at Peace within. And therefore, to be a Peacemaker means to help people acquire that Inner-Peace without which there cannot be Peace between or among people.
And the Promise, ah, Christ you might say exalted His Vocabulary, the tenderest Promise He could make, ďthey shall be called, children of GodĒ, specially Loved by God and whatever you can do to Reconcile others will be Blessed by the Lord. Others among themselves, but remember, no Reconciliation between people is possible unless there is First Peace within-people and of course needless to say, we will be ourselves only as effective Peacemakers as we ourselves are at Peace ourselves.
Finally, and I hesitate even speaking of the Eighth Beatitude because I would like to spend the Whole Hour just on the Eighth Beatitude. It is so Rich in itís implications. First it reads, ďBlessed are you when men abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on My account, rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in Heaven. This is how they persecuted the Prophets before youĒ. Unquote the Savior. What are we being told? Christ saved the Eighth Beatitude for Last. You live Faithfully the First Seven (7) Beatitudes, and my friends, you cannot escape the Eighth, am I clear? In other words, even as Christ Himself, and just repeat the verbs, was Abused and Persecuted and all kinds of Calumny spoken against Him, Hated, Hounded, Condemned to Death, Crucified, and the Worst possible, the most Horrible kind of Execution of which the Roman Soldiers were capable, was Crucifixion.
Christ Himself experienced that Suffering and His Promises for those who follow-in His Footsteps, they are to expect to be Rejected accordingly. You might ask, well why? Why? Because the World always Hates the Truth, and when Truth became Incarnate, the Truth was Rejected, Crucified, Died and was Buried. You might say somewhat surprisingly, Christ in giving us the Eighth Beatitude Promises, oh, He Promises Happiness all right, but hear it, the Promise of looking-forward-to a Heavenly Eternity. In other words, for those who follow Jesus Faithfully, they should not expect any other Joy here on Earth that is more deeply satisfying than the Joy of knowing that they are following in the Footsteps of the Master and that even as He was Rejected, so they are. They are Rejected with Him, but, hear it, in the original Greek of Saint Matthew, the Followers of Christ are told not just to rejoice, but positively, dance with joy. Why? Because Love, Love enjoys to Suffer for the One whom he Loves, and there is no greater Joy, no greater Joy on Earth, than that of Uniting our Being, Rejected by the World, because we are Faithful to Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your attention.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
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