This week’s article completes the consideration of the Beatitudes that I began last week. In his apostolic exhortation Rejoice and Be Glad, Pope Francis refers to the Beatitudes as our “identity card.” They give us a portrait of Jesus that we are called to reflect in our daily lives. We turn our attention this week to the final four Beatitudes.
• Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Am I generous in helping and serving others? Do I forgive others when they offend me? While mercy involves helping and serving others, it also includes forgiving others. Sometimes it is easier to share our material goods and even our time and effort with others than it is to forgive someone who has hurt us. We may harbor ill feelings toward another, nurture grudges, and think of ways we can “get even” with someone who has offended us. We would do well to remember that the “yardstick we use for understanding and forgiving others will measure the forgiveness we receive. . . . We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion” (Rejoice and Be Glad, 81, 82). God never tires of forgiving us and Jesus tells us there is no limit to the number of times we need to forgive others. Forgiveness is a virtue, a habit formed by repeated action. “Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness” (82).
• Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God. Are my actions motivated by love? Do I perform good deeds in order to be recognized or noticed by others? Is my love for others sincere, genuine, and authentic? “Certainly there can be no love without works of love, but this Beatitude reminds us that the Lord expects a commitment to our brothers and sisters that comes from the heart” (85). The pure of heart love God above all else and recognize Him in their brothers and sisters. Their love for others goes beyond mere words. It is reflected in actions devoid of self-interest and motivated by the needs of others.
• Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. War, conflict, and violence are common in the world today. Solutions to these realities are complex and often seem beyond our ability to influence change. As I reflected on “peacemakers,” I recalled the lyrics of a song: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” What can I do to create peace in my family, in my neighborhood, or in the workplace? Do I cause conflict or misunderstanding among others? Do I spread rumors and gossip about others? Let us keep in mind that our actions can contribute to peace or disharmony. It is not easy to create peace and friendship which “excludes no one but embraces even those who are a bit odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, indifferent, beaten down by life or simply uninterested. It is hard work; it calls for great openness of mind and heart. . . . We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill” (89).
• Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “In living the Gospel, we cannot expect that everything will be easy . . .” (91). Following Jesus includes the way of the cross. This Beatitude addresses the ongoing cost of discipleship. “Many people have been, and still are, persecuted simply because they struggle for justice, because they take seriously their commitment to God and to others” (90). Pope Francis notes that persecution takes many forms, the shedding of blood by those who courageously die for their faith or “more subtle means, by slander and lies . . . and gibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous” (94).
The Beatitudes challenge us. “They clearly run counter to the way things are done in the world. Even if we find Jesus’ message attractive, the world pushes us towards another way of living” (65). Our commitment to them depends not only on our efforts but also on God’s grace. We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit as we walk on the path to holiness.
I conclude my article this week as I did last week. Take some time to reflect on the Beatitudes. Refer to Mt 5:3-12 and if possible consult Pope Francis’ exhortation, Rejoice and Be Glad. It can be read online or downloaded if, like myself, you prefer a hard copy. Copies are also available for purchase from Our Sunday Visitor and the USCCB website.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.