At his weekly general audience teachings, 6 August last year, and in subsequent teachings, Pope Francis said Christians should memorise not only the Ten Commandments but also the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-12, which Jesus taught at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, as the path to true happiness and fulfilment. Fr Tom Lawn introduces a series of reflections on the beatitudes, starting with the first two.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Fr Tom Lawn
The Beatitudes should be memorised by us. Pope Francis gives them the same priority as the Ten Commandments. He says the Beatitudes are not only the path God indicates as his response to the desire for happiness present in each person and the perfection of the Ten Commandments, he also says they are a portrait of Jesus and his way of life.
It is just as well he says that because that is pretty much a summary of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says. The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts.
Pope Francis links the Beatitudes directly to Matthew 25: Did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner? He says, ‘I read the beatitudes and think about how my life as a Christian should be and then, I make an examination of conscience with this 25th Chapter from Matthew. Every day I ask, “Did I do this? Did I do that?’’ ’
I myself have not yet memorised the beatitudes. In fact, I might be past that. But I can take to heart Pope Francis’ wisdom and ponder more deeply about the beatitudes in my Aotearoa New Zealand context, with the lens of a Parish Priest. The first two will serve for this month.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’, Mt5:3. There are loads of people who daily teach me that truth. The woman, who rings to say, ‘I am going to hospital tomorrow’, does not ask for a visit or the sacrament of the sick, yet I know that is what she hopes for. The young person, who sits on the presbytery step during play or lunch time, and who is hoping for some company. Hopefully even the priest who wanders his golf course wondering about the use of land, and the abuse of resources.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’, Mt5:4. Grief comes in many forms, and usually we are slow to heal. Obviously, there is the death of a loved one. Less obvious is the loss of a friendship, the break-up of a marriage, the loss of some skill or opportunity to serve, the moving on and the challenges of moving in. They will be comforted. Learning again and again to live the truth that life is changed not ended. I have been very aware of the families leaving our area to go to new jobs, unfortunately have not yet connected to those moving in.
Maybe you can think of and name for yourself the poor in spirit and those who are mourning that you know. Offer a prayer for their needs, say thanks for their witness.
Fr Tom Lawn is the parish priest for St Joseph’s, Hawera (including Sacred Heart, Manaia).