Jan. 30, 2011:
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
If the sermon on the mount is a summary of all Christian doctrine, the beatitudes are a summary of the Sermon on the mount. Here, then, if anywhere, we have the essence of the Gospel. In catechism classes, you may still remember the answers to question like “What else is forbidden by the eighth commandment?” But we were never told was forbidden or commanded or even recommended by the eighth beatitudes! The ten commandments are basic rules of morality, but the beatitudes are a measure of how far beyond this the gospel calls us.
The morality of the ten commandments is a morality that can be measured: it is possible to say exactly where you are with them, ticking the ones you broke and the degree of the breach. Christians may come to believe that they have no sin just because they have not disobeyed the commandments. The morality of the Beatitudes is harder to quantify; How poor in the spirit are you? How meek, gentle, merciful…?
You can never say: I have reached it! You can never be self-righteous. And you can never begin to think that you are better than another – because you can’t compare. In addition, as Simon Tugwell wrote: “St Paul learned to talk even about the weakness of God (1 Cor 1:25)… There is something about God which is better expressed in weakness than in strength, in foolishness than in wisdom, in poverty than in riches.”
To be blessed is to be with God. Candidates for sainthood are first called “Blessed” – an indication that the church recognizes these persons to be enjoying the privilege of being with God. But even while on earth, we seek to meet God for strength and inspiration. We seek to be blessed. Each of us has a way of trying to establish this connection with God.
Most of us feel we are especially blessed when we are able to spend time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. We find connection with God on the mountainside where we hear the singing of the birds and the sound of one’s own breathing –or along the beach where the sand rattles with the crashing of the waves. Some others feel blessed when they are able to share the presence of God with someone they lay hands on, or when they are able to make some poor, sick, old or orphan happy.
The interesting thing about our ways of seeking God and “blessedness” itself is that we often relate these with doing something special, expending extra effort, setting aside a special time, or going to some places that are out of the ordinary. And we measure our “blessedness” by the sense of peace, the emotional rush, and the marvelous chills we feel in out hearts.
Life, however, is more routine—more of the ordinary, rather than special moments. We work, we play, we struggle, we feel pain, we are insulted and we are injured, and we make our way out of trials and difficulties. The beauty of the gospel today is this – while we have ideas on how we could meet God, God has a slightly different ways of wanting to meet us.
Jesus declares that “blessings” come when we are trying to live our daily lives in faith, to do what is right amidst pain and injury, and to share peace and mercy through our words and actions. He meets us in our weakness, in our grief, in our needs and hunger, in our thirst for justice and righteousness, in our pain and suffering. He meets us daily in the cross that we share in Jesus.
The proof that God meets us and we meet Him is not some emotional high, nor some vision and ecstasy, though these may be wonderful things. the proof is in us – in the growth of our understanding , in the increase of our love, in our acceptance and faith amidst what life has to offer.
St Therese of the little way loved to say: “ Blessedness is not in doing extraordinary things, but doing ordinary things with a great heart.” Indeed, when we embrace life, God comes, encounters us, strengthen us, and rewards us.
The blessings of the Gospel are indeed a paradox. To understand this we must first turn to Jesus. It is He who is poor in spirit, meek, afflicted, who hungers and thirst for justice, merciful, pure of heart, peacemaker, persecuted unto death. But He is also exalted at the right hand of the Father. Those who are identified with Him are already “blessed.”
Count your blessings! What memories do you treasure most? When did you feel close to God?