January 30, 2011 Saints live the Beatitudes Fr. Mark Cherry
Two weeks ago we looked at our call to be saints (hagiois = holy, saints = the holy ones). Those who have been baptised into Christ have become objectively holy by virtue of being incorporated in to the mystical body of the One who is all holy – Jesus Christ. The objective gift of holiness now becomes a "task" as we answer the call to personal holiness. St Paul writes, "This is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3). Baptism has implications. It is a contradiction to be incorporated into Christ through baptism and live a life of mediocrity, with a minimalistic ethic and a shallow religiosity. As baptised Christians we are called to live differently than those in the world. God’s standard is not the same as the world’s standard. The Beatitudes given to us by Jesus are God's standard and the essence of the Christian life, the essence of holiness. But even before our call to live out the Beatitudes there is a duty we have as those who are baptised and that is to worship God. The Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium speaks to the primacy of the worship and adoration that the Church is to render to God. The first task of the Church is to worship God. That is why we gather each week to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, the sacrifice of the Mass. Sacrosanctum Concilium referring to the Mass says, "it is an activity of Christ, and of His body which is the Church; it is a sacred action of a preeminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness" (SC, no.7-8). It is the pure sacrifice that is offered to God from the rising of the sun to its setting around the world (Mal. 1:11). St. Padre Pio once said, “It would easier for the world to exist without the sun that to exist without the Mass.” The sacrifice of the Mass is the only offering that is pleasing to the Father, for every time it is celebrated it presents to the Father again, the once and for all sacrifice of His dearly Beloved Son of the Cross for sins. For those who will grasp this and enter into the Mass there is no greater way to access God's grace and to become holy than to partake in the celebration of the Mass. Our first duty as baptised sons and daughters of God is to worship our God in the beauty of holiness through the Sacred Liturgy. Christianity is first vertical before it is horizontal.
We are called to be saints and the Beatitudes give us God's standard which is very different than the worlds. The Beatitudes contain the essence of the Christian way of life. The Catholic Catechism states, "The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be – such as science, technology, art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and all love" (CCC # 1723). The choice to follow Jesus Christ and live the Gospel changes our entire life. It changes how we think, how we act, how we dress, how we speak and how we interact with people. The Gospel confronts every aspect of our entire existence. The Beatitudes turns all worldly standards and values upside down. It would be better to say it turns worldly standards and values which are upside down, right-side up.
Matthew’s gospel presents eight beatitudes, however Luke's gospel presents four which summarize Matthew's eight. Let's us quickly look at Luke's four beatitudes which are followed by four curses which underscore what happens to those who choose to live by the standards and values of the world.
"Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" This beatitude states that no matter how much or how little we have of this world's goods we should recognize that everything we have comes from God. In the book of Deuteronomy we read, "And you shall remember the Lord you God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant…" (Dt. 8:18). Created things are to be used as stepping stones to eternity. This beatitude calls us to live detached from the created things of this world and to seek God first, in whom true fulfillment and happiness is found. It calls us to use our gifts, talents and resources for the spreading of the Gospel and to help those in need where we can and are given opportunity.
"Blessed are those who hunger now, for they will be satisfied." This beatitude speaks to a hunger for God – to know and love Him. We must guard against materialism which can deaden our hunger and our desire to know, love and serve God. For those who hunger for the things of this world and are filled in this life by these things with no regard for God and to help others, they shall be left hungry in the next.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh." Our relationship with God begins with an acknowledgment of our sinful condition. St. Peter cried, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man"( Lk.5:8). It is true repentance that will allow us to experience true joy. The humble person acknowledges their sin and need of God’s loving mercy which He abundantly gives to all who ask. No one can truly repent without true sorrow for sin. Those who have expressed sorrow for their sins and turned from them in this life will receive not only joy here but everlasting joy.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you, and cast your name as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day; and leap for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven; for so their ancestors did to the prophets” This beatitudes speaks to the reality that anyone living an authentic Christian life in contrast to how the world lives will encounter some persecution for following Christ. When we stand up for the truth we will sometimes be rejected even by those we love the most. We cannot accept some of the things and lifestyles the world tells us are okay. They are not okay with God and never will be regardless of what human laws are passed. The world is never going to accept the Church. Cardinal De Lubac of France once said, "the measure of the Church’s fidelity to Christ is her indigestibility to the world." When we are rejected for living by God's laws, standards, and speaking the truth we are to rejoice and pray for those who persecute us. God has promised a great reward for those who suffer and are insulted on account of being faithful to His Son.
The Beatitudes do not contain all the teachings of the Gospel but they contain the essence of how we are called to live as baptised Christians. We are called to be saints! The world needs saints today more than ever – authentic witnesses to the Gospel; authentic witnesses to the Risen Christ. The Lord Jesus is calling you and me to be those saints. In Zephaniah's time the Lord was gathering a holy remnant to Himself and He is doing the same today. May we be found among those who seek the Lord with a humble heart, who do His commands, seek righteousness, who do no wrong and utter no lies. To those who will answer the call to be saints the Lord promises them refuge in the day of His wrath and they will lie down in good pasture and no one shall make them afraid.