Benedict of the Beatitudes
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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."
Pope Benedict of the Beatitudes
We are still mourning the passing of Pope Benedict XVI. After an act of much humility in resigning as Pope, he spent the last years of his life preparing for the definitive encounter with Jesus. He offers an icon of faith, in that the faith is not a list of moral precepts, but an encounter with the Living Lord.
People often look to religion as the source of a moral code. The great moral code of the Old Testament is the Ten Commandments. We think about the Ten Commandments about how we are supposed to obey God. The Beatitudes offer a parallel in the New Testament, but are especially a way of introducing us to Christian joy. These are the eight laws of happiness, according to Jesus in the Gospel. It takes time to learn how they lead us to happiness, since at face value they may repel us.
If we are going to be happy, we need to learn how to become blessed and take the Beatitudes as a new program of life.
Pope Benedict taught that:
Jesus, the new Moses, “takes his seat on the cathedra of the mountain” (Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York 2007, p. 65) and proclaims “blessed” the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the merciful, those who hunger for righteousness, the pure in heart, the persecuted (cf. Mt 5:3-10). It is not a new ideology, but a teaching that comes from on high and touches the human condition, the condition that the Lord, in becoming flesh, wished to assume in order to save it. (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 30 January 2011)
The Beatitudes invite us to look beyond the pleasures of the present life to the true joy that we will find in Heaven. Pope Benedict invited us to:
free [ourselves] from the false values of the world and to open [ourselves] to the true goods, present and future. Indeed, when God comforts, he satisfies the hunger for righteousness, he wipes away the tears of those who mourn, which means that, as well as compensating each one in a practical way, he opens the Kingdom of Heaven. (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 30 January 2011)
So much of the stress and anxiety that we experience in life comes from holding on to false values, instead of true goods. When Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from the papacy, I was impressed by the contrast with some other world figures. While he saw his advanced age and declining health as a sign that he should let go of the power of the papacy, in Italy the president was just as old, clinging to power, and Fidel Castro was holding onto power, even though he was already very ill. It made it even more clear how humility was such a motivating factor of the Pope’s decision. When we are men and women of the Beatitudes, we are able to let go of the desire for earthly power, in favor of the joy of possessing the eternal.
“God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us "partakers of the divine nature" and of eternal life. With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ and into the joy of the Trinitarian life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1721) Everything else is an extra. We are not to get caught up in the superficial trappings of life, instead of holding on to what is most important. The last years of his life were marked by an atmosphere of waiting for divine judgement, within the context of much love and trust.
Last year, Pope Benedict showed how living the Beatitudes had transformed his life.
As I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate, my ‘Paraclete.’ (Pope Benedict XVI, Letter regarding the Report on Abuse, 8 February, 2022)
The Beatitudes are an invitation to us to hold onto what is truly important. The life of Pope Benedict was an example of how that can look concretely in a human life.
Save us, O Lord our God!
And gather us from the nations,
to give thanks to your holy name,
and make it our glory to praise you.
Grant us, Lord our God,
that we may honor you with all our mind,
and love everyone in truth of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
Brothers and sisters, as we seek to honor God with our mind and love everyone with our hearts, let us raise our prayers to God.
grant our petitions, that we may honor you with our mind and love others with our hearts. We ask this through Christ our Lord.