Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors
Living the Blessings of the Beatitudes
During his visit to Chile in January, Pope Francis said of the Beatitudes that they “are born of a merciful heart that never loses hope, a heart that experiences hope as a new day, a casting out of…the inertia which paralyzes those who no longer have faith in the transforming power of God our Father and in their brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable and outcast.”
The pontiff went on to say that the Beatitudes “are born of the compassionate heart of Jesus, which encounters the hearts of men and women seeking and yearning for a life of happiness.” Referencing the earthquakes that many in attendance had survived, he said, “How much you know about getting up again after so many falls! That is the heart to which Jesus speaks; that is the heart for which the Beatitudes are meant!”
Pope Francis’ poignant message captures the essence of how the Beatitudes should affect us all. They are the teachings Jesus brought to deepen the lived faith of all those yearning for a better way. They are like road signs that steer us away from the empty promises of worldly endeavors and towards the fulfillment of a relationship with God.
That relationship is only realized when we embrace a spirit of poverty, as stated in the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Not that we have to be destitute, but rather that we have to be detached enough from the things of this world to be able to do what is right.
Consider the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist whose journey took him from war profiteer during World War II to heroic humanitarian who risked his entire fortune to save the lives of over 1,000 Jewish refugees by employing them in his factories and protecting them from deportation to concentration camps. The film Schindler’s List dramatizes the personal risk he took to save Jewish lives in a scene where he bribes the commandant of Auschwitz with a bag full of diamonds to release women and children after their train was accidentally redirected to the death camp while on route to his factory.
Schindler’s went from being a man who valued his Jewish workers for the profit they brought him to the point of caring nothing for his wealth in comparison to the lives it could save. It was horrific circumstances that brought him to this realization, but Christ calls us to choose the right path and abandon worldly cares regardless of the circumstances of our times.
In the Beatitudes, Christ calls us to humility, mercy, peacefulness, and purity of heart. Taken together, they mean that we should will the good at all times and allow our actions to flow from that good will. We are called also to hunger for righteousness, even in the face of ridicule and persecution. And, when we open our hearts to the good and to love yet experience loss, our mourning becomes all the more painful, which is why God assures us of His comfort.
So the Beatitudes are a beautiful assurance that God will be with us always in our efforts to do what is right. To be blessed is to live in confidence of this assurance, and that blessed way of life brings about a lightness in our hearts and souls that is a treasure beyond all the riches of this world.
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