Today we have the wonderful beatitudes. Whenever I do a funeral mass, people usually want to have this as their gospel reading, and sometimes I struggle with thinking why. I think about parents; if you were to ask parents the top three things they would like for their kids, they would probably like them to be happy, wealthy, have a good family, and have a good job. The beatitudes are very opposite of that. He says, “Blessed are those who mourn; blessed are those who are persecuted.” He gives this whole litany of things that seem to be very difficult for us to experience, but he tells us why it’s blessed.
I was going through each of these beatitudes. There are nine of them, so I’ll try to keep it quick for each one. I was thinking of saints that represented that beatitude. You and I are called to be saints and so for the end of your life, I’d like you to think about these beatitudes and think of which one of the beatitudes could you be. Which one of them do you relate most strongly to because that beatitude could help make you a saint?
For the first beatitude, we have, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Gospel of Luke just says, “Blessed are the poor,” right? Does anybody want to be poor? “Blessed are the poor,” but Matthew adds, “in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” The word poor means literally in Greek, those who beg. Blessed are those who beg for God’s spirit. S,t. John of the Cross is the saint I chose for this one because he was known for having The Dark Knight of the spirit and The Dark Knight of the soul, so he would beg for God’s presence even though he felt darkness. He said, “All the wealth and glory of all creation compared to the wealth, which is God, is supreme poverty and wretchedness.” All the wealth of the world means nothing except for God and his love. He would beg for that love.
“Blessed are they who mourn,” number two, “for they will be comforted.” For this one, I thought of Mary, the mother of God, because one of her names is Mater Dolorosa, which means Mother of, Sorrows. Blessed are those who sorrow. My mother’s name is Dolores, and when she found out it meant Mother of Sorrows, she goes, “Oh, that makes sense.” Six of us kids she had to raise and a father. Mary went through many sorrows with her son; even from the time that she presented him in the temple, she heard that “a sword shall pierce her heart.” She would walk along with him on the passion and experience him being rejected, cursed upon, slandered, beaten, and crucified. But she’s blessed.
The third is, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” This is one I think is difficult for all of us. You think in school you want to try to get good grades; you want to be successful in work; you want to be somebody that presents themselves as strong. Meek doesn’t mean weak. What meek means is that we know our strengths, we know our gifts, and we know our potential, but we’re humble about it. For the meek, I chose St. Therese of the Little Flower, also known as the Little Way. She said, “Dear Lord, you know my weakness. Each morning I resolve to be humble, and in the evening, I recognize that I’ve often been guilty of pride.” Has anybody experienced that? Wake up in the morning, and you want to be really good, and you go to bed, and you think, what happened to that? She says, “The sight of these faults tempts me to discouragement, yet I know that discouragement, even discouragement is a form of pride. I wish, therefore, Oh my God, to build my trust in me. As you can do all things, implant in my soul this virtue, which I desire, and obtain it from thy infinite mercy. I will often say to you, “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thy.” “Blessed are the meek.”’
The fourth, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied”. Righteousness. I chose St. Joseph for this. He is sometimes known as Joseph the Righteous. St. Matthew relates in his gospel that when Joseph discovered Mary with the child, “being a righteous man and not willing to expose her, he decided to divorce her quietly”, but “The Angel of the Lord came to him and explained God’s plan in a dream.” As a righteous man, Joseph sets an example. St. Irenaeus teaches, “The righteous men of old were those who loved God who made them and did nothing unjust against their neighbor. Loving God and doing nothing unjust against our neighbor. Are we righteous?
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” St. Faustina, I chose this because her diary is called Divine Mercy. She said, “All grace flows from mercy. Even if a person’s sins were scarlet and dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary, that a sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let a ray of God’s merciful love, and then God can do the rest.” She said there are three ways of performing acts of mercy. One is a merciful word. Forgiving somebody and comforting them, even if they have done something unjust to you. Just saying something kind to them. Secondly, if you can offer no word, then pray for mercy. And third, deeds of mercy. “When the last day comes, we will be judged from this, and on the basis, we shall receive the eternal verdict.” Were we merciful to people? If we were merciful to people, God would be merciful to us.
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” I immediately thought of St. Augustine because St. Augustine’s famous line is, “Give me chastity but not yet.” That was his prayer. St. Augustine needed a conversion of clean of heart and would go on to write the confessions, and he had this beautiful part of the confessions that says, “Late have I loved you, ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved you. You were within. I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness, I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you, yet if they had not been in you, they would not have been at all. You called. You shouted. You broke through my deafness. You flashed. You shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me. I drew in a breath, and now I pant for you. I have tasted you. Now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” He had this gift of purity of heart, and it went from unchastity, even asking God to let him be unchaste for a while, to a purity of heart when nothing else would satisfy him but God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” I immediately thought of St. Francis and his beautiful prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow your love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair and hope. Where there is darkness, light. And, where there is sadness, joy. Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is dying that we are born to eternal life.’ Maybe you can be a peacemaker today.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This one, I thought about Maximilian Kolbe. Maximilian Kolbe was a priest, and he was in a concentration camp. There was a scene towards the end of his life where they had lined up a bunch of men that they were going to execute. They just went like this and said, “You, you, you, you, and Maximilian didn’t get picked. But there was one man that he knew from talking to him. He was a married man. He was married with children. Maximilian said right away; he said, “I can’t let him die.” So, he asked the guard if he could trade places with him, and the guard let him. He traded places with him, and he spared that man’s life. Maximilian Kolbe would go on to say, “For Jesus Christ, I am prepared to suffer still more. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”
Finally, “Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.” It sounds like something you want for your kid. Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you and under every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Think about that even today with bullying in school, kids that get bullied. My nephew was getting bullied a lot last year. It’s so painful for them to experience and for the parents to experience.
There was this 12-year-old boy. This was in the third century. His name was St. Tarcissus, and each day they would meet. Back then, you couldn’t meet for Mass publicly because if you did, you could get persecuted and killed. So, they would meet privately in the catacombs. They would have Mass in the catacombs where the Christian martyrs were buried. They’d be gathered for Mass, and after Mass, the deacon would go and take Eucharist to people that were in prison and carry the Eucharist to those who were condemned to die. There were people in prison that were going to be martyred, and he would take Eucharist to them. At one point, there wasn’t a deacon, and they chose this acolyte, this server, St. Tarcissus, twelve years old, and they said, “We want you to carry the Holy Eucharist to the prison, and so he did. On the way, he was stopped by a bunch of boys his own age, who were not Christians, and knew him to be a Christian, but also a lover of games and playing. They asked him to join their games, but he couldn’t because he had the Blessed Sacrament with him. They realized this, and they recognized that he had Jesus with him. They began teasing him, and before he knew it, they jumped on him and they began to beat him almost to death. Twelve years old carrying the Eucharist. After he went down under many blows, somebody came and rescued him from the mob, but by the time they carried him back to the catacombs, the boy died from the injuries. Twelve years old. He’s a patron saint of altar boys and has always been an example of youthful courage and devotion.
Pope St. Damascus would later write a poem about him called The Boy Martyr of the Eucharist, and say; like St. Stephen, he would go to his death rather than give up the Eucharist. “Blessed are they when they insult and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of Jesus.” It’s one thing to be persecuted, but to be persecuted because of Jesus is what matters.
Having said all this, which one do you want to be? One of these will make you holy. I just encourage you to reflect and review these nine beatitudes and think about which one am I called to. Which one most resonates with me that would make me be a saint? You could be like Saint Augustine, too, and you could say, “God, make me a saint, just not yet.” But pray for that. Pray for the grace to live the beatitudes because if we do, we will truly find happiness, not only on this earth but in the life to come.
Wow, Father, thank you. Like St. Theres, “I choose all”, but I know I need to take one step at a time. They are so inspiring, profound and give a special clarity to the Beatitudes. We memorize them as children and decades later I am only beginning to understand their meaning.
After thought and prayer, today I choose St. Maximillian Kolbe, our parish patron Saint; I have relatives who died in Auschwitz, and I am going through a time in my life where I need this beatitude.
Now I am going to print this out so I can remember and refer to it when I need it. (which will probably be often_
I’m glad it helped. Print it out and keep going back to it!
St Francis Peacemaker