All Saints, Legião de Maria.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Matthew 5:11-12
Words and phrases highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
It is said that we might have in our genetic makeup a “God gene”. It presumably means (if it’s true) that we are predisposed to acknowledging something – someone – spiritually beyond ourselves, a force hopefully geared towards the good. The would certainly fit well into the Catholic teaching that we, as humans, are intrinsically attracted to the good, rather than evil (which is when we know we are in the wrong), and that any deviation is due to our own decision deliberately to change direction, for whatever reason. In other words, it is perfectly natural and possible for each of us to be saints! How? Well look at today’s gospel, the ipsissima verba of the Lord himself, the essential, absolute crucible of Christian identity. That is how we attain holiness. In other words, it is right and good to be poor in spirit, to acknowledge that we are not gods ourselves, but are created by a force of good, and are invited into that goodness, suitably meek and grateful. It is right and good that we be merciful to others, to show compassion to others even if they do not deserve it, following the Lord’s example. It is right and good to seek peace always and everywhere, for that is God’s will, and we are God’s children. And so on through the list of Beatitudes, today’s gospel.
Let’s look at the word beatitude for a moment. It comes from the Latin word beatus usually translated as blessed, itself taken from the Latin verb beare, to make happy (the girl’s name Beatrice comes from the same source). Hence the Beatitudes could equally be called the Happinesses. In the Magnificat, Mary’s great prayer on greeting her cousin Elizabeth in Luke 1:46-55, she says, “All generations will call be blessed”, which might sound rather grandiose to English ears, but when you realize it could equally be “All generations will call me happy”, it rings very differently. So fulfilling the Lord’s Beatitudes is the pathway to happiness! They are not easy steps, but they are sacred steps, and assuredly lead to God’s presence, the meaning of the word grace, the presence of God: “Hail Mary, full of the presence of God…” And to be in God’s presence, even here on earth, is to be, in a real sense, in heaven itself, here and now! Therefore today’s gospel is a recipe, as it were, to true happiness even here on earth. And here we also have to understand the meaning of the word happiness. We are bombarded with commercials on TV which, it seems, will make us happy. According to them, we will be happy if we buy this car, or that hair spray, or this pizza or that suite of furniture: the list is endless, and it goes on and on, night after night. In fact, when I was a student of economics many years ago, I asked the professor what if our desire for all the things we want is actually satisfied, and our consumer demand vanishes? The answer was that we would now enjoy “hither bliss”. Hmmm. I wonder if you can be really happy surrounded by things rather than friends and relatives. Isn’t real happiness working for the good of others, receiving and giving true gratitude, the contentment of an evening spent with a friend, the joy of knowing that we believe in a God who is good, wanting only our happiness and devotion? It is into such a vision that Jesus plants the Beatitudes as seeds which will grow, flower, and provide us with the strength to gain eternal, ultimate happiness. In other words, for us to be truly and fully human, and live out our lives as the true image of God in which we are all made, to which we are all summoned.
I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10. The Apocalypse Tapestry c.1380, Château d’Angers, Angers, France.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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