Before studying the New Testament, I used to wonder why St. Paul spent so much of his life in prison, suffering, trying to get the message out. He never questioned it, his lot, and the difficulties. Why, was that? When we are faced with difficulties we often complain, why me? Why now? Perhaps even why not someone else? At our least proud moments.
St. Paul had the biggest advantage over us, he had seen the Risen Christ, knocked down and selected personally by Christ for this mission, he had knowledge of God, and he went from the worst kind of persecutor of Christian’s to God’s greatest advocate in a flash, a moment of time.
After this event, Paul did not need Faith or Hope, but only Charity. He did not need Faith anymore because he had seen God, the belief that we all call Faith is needed only if we have not seen God as Paul did.
He did not need Hope because he knew God was there, that life and his love were everlasting and would never end. He didn’t need to hope that God would be there for him, he knew it. And therefore it was to him to broadcast this message to those that didn’t. He wanted all the others in the various cities around the new Christian World to see what he had seen, to feel what he had felt, to know what he knew. That God was real, was everlasting and was there for them.
St. Paul wanted to remove ever obstacle that would separate them from Christ, anything that might cause them not to enjoy the beatific vision at the end of their worldly life and then sit with God for ever in heaven.
Paul understood, because he had been a sinner and persecutor of Christ and His followers that God’s mercy was unlimited, but at the end of the day, that turning towards Christ was necessary to begin to enjoy those fruits, even on earth.
The communities that he founded and nurtured in Corinth (and other places), needed help and guidance. That the suffering that they might endure here on earth was not a waste of time or just bad luck, but rather something that could be a sacrificial offering to God, one that would help them personally on their journey towards eternal love and peace in the presence of the Lord.
Paul tries, as the leadership of the Church does today, to have us accept that when we have a challenge to take this is an opportunity for us to love God more dearly, more deeply, each day of our lives.
He will be there to help us up, providing more support for us to endure our sometimes difficult lives, revealing more of Himself to us, as we let “Him into” the temple that is our own body. To further perfect our relationship with Him.
Matthew’s Gospel today of the beatitudes provides us with a most beautiful model for us to perfect our own spiritual lives.
The beatitudes are in fact a highway to heaven, set out in an order by God so we can learn and perfect each step, while moving closer to Him, while here on earth.
While the Ten Commandments are important, the beatitudes are invitational and transformative. From a fairly early age, I did try and “avoid the occasion of sin” but it seemed that much of what I was being taught was how “not to act” rather than “how to love”. The beatitudes are, for me at least, a simple means of “seeing where we are on our own spiritual journey”. I can see times in my life in the past where I did not use this measure, but rather headed to the confessional with my failures, did my penance and then tried to stay on that rather narrow road.
Rather than viewing the “narrow path”, I think of the beatitudes like having a multi-lane highway to heaven. All heading towards God, once we get on the freeway we find others practicing the same virtues right alongside us. Encouraging us, helping us along. Each beatitude helps us to cross to the next one, but still heading in the right direction. Towards God and heaven!
The first three beatitudes talk of the happiness that we will find as we head away from that town called sin. This is more than just following the ten Commandants, which largely tell us “what not to do”, but rather to put us on a path for a closer loving relationship with God. (Poor in Spirit, the Meek and those that Mourn) These are an internal examination of how we “feel inside and react to those around us”. We take stock of our lives and see our true selves, rather like looking in the mirror.
The next two, a hunger for justice and mercy for our neighbor require a proactive position as a Christian. We have to get out of the boat and defend others when they are wronged, not sit idly or quietly by as they are persecuted. Using my highway analogy, we can think about ourselves as someone who would stop and help someone change a tire, or protect them from injustice. These sharpen our senses to understand that being a Christian is not a static position on the playing field of life. We are called to “do something for God and for our fellow man”.
Then comes contemplation of the mysteries of God, looking inside ourselves for that purity of heart and peace that only springs from true wisdom. This purity comes from us truly working 24/7 to do God’s work, it’s not enough for us to be pious when others see us doing so, but true purity of heart where all we care of is doing God’s will. We have surrendered and offered all of our love to Him. From this wisdom will be granted, and that knowledge of God’s presence will reside in our heart.
All of these beatitudes will protect us when we are inevitably persecuted in His name. The beatitudes are not some abstract text with little meaning in our everyday lives. Today, perhaps more than ever we need to follow Jesus’s beautiful Beatitude pathway, so we help guarantee our place on the Highway to Heaven.
Closeness to Him of course can be obtained by practicing the beatitudes ourselves, the grace will come.
Today we gain the supernatural graces from our receiving The Eucharist, His Most Precious Body, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. We thank Him for this wonderful morning that we may start the day with this indescribable gift and ask for the grace to live our lives according to His will as given in the beatitudes. For this we pray Though Christ Our Lord. Amen.