Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham and fulfill these promises by ordering them to gain the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus spoke to the Hebrew people, He also speaks to people of every nation throughout all time. The Beatitudes reveal the goal of our existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to His own beatitude. God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. The Beatitudes lead us toward holiness so that we might partake in eternal life. The Beatitudes teach us to love God above all things and how to love one another.
The Beatitudes reveal the richness of God’s Word which can only become a treasure if we participate in it; if we listen, pray and embrace God’s Word as part of our daily living. Each beatitude is a blessing for us; a path to follow to gain this treasure.
I name the first beatitude for this column because it speaks to us to be humbled before the Lord. In the Old Testament, the poor in spirit are those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God. It is a call to us to recognize our complete dependence upon God, no matter our social rank.
It is with this beatitude in our heart that we reflect upon our belief in the holiness of life; the beauty of life from conception to natural death because of our complete dependence upon God. In order for us to appreciate the difficulty we have with the decision to legalize abortion or the sinfulness of human trafficking or the disparity of the death penalty, we must return to this beatitude; to remember that we are of God and that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
A disconnect is presented to us when; in our secular culture each individual is king and centered on his or herself or each one’s own glorification and, in our Christian living each individual is called to live as a temple of the Lord and recognize our dependence upon God. Mary our Blessed Mother offers us a profound example to follow when the angel Gabriel speaks to her about bearing the Son of God and she replies, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit exults in God my Savior.” Life is a blessing from God. Within our faithfulness, it is not a choice of each one to determine whether to allow life, but it is a choice of each one to live life through, with and in God. Our secular culture may tempt us to cast off the beatitudes and live by what feels good or is convenient without regard to the sanctity of each one where no one is a throw away. It takes Christian courage, the gift of the Holy Spirit, to joyfully proclaim the Word of God.
What is our offering to God when there are so many detractors from our faith? How do we reconcile what we believe with what the secular world puts forth? We follow our Blessed Mother’s example and reflect each day upon our faithfulness toward God; we pray for ourselves and each other-those who have faith in God and those who do not; we pray that we are not deterred by the sins of the flesh; rather that we lead by example in all aspects of life.
Some time ago, there was a question marketed toward young people and seemed to be embraced by them; “What would Jesus do (WWJD)?” In its simplicity, it became a guide for discernment by which young people might consider their actions before God. The Beatitudes are our guide to fulfill our baptismal call to live as priest, prophet and king, to live as God desires.
Pope Francis said on the Third Sunday of Advent, “I appeal to everyone for the commitment to make a civilized choice: say ‘no’ to destruction and ‘yes’ to peace.” Our Holy Father exhorts us, “The context of this situation is desolation, an inexorable fate without God.” The bishops of Florida recently released a statement on the anniversary of the decision of Roe v Wade to allow the legalization of abortion. In that statement, we note to you the challenges we find today within our legislative process to make our world as God’s paradise as we seek to live in fidelity with God’s commandments. I encourage you to read the statement and to reflect upon all the “disconnects” in our world and how you might lead humbly before God.
We are the poor in spirit. May we gain the Kingdom of heaven by our recognition that we are only blessed as we are of God.