Many people are so obsessed with achieving their ambitions that they practically spend their whole life toiling on it. They think happiness and peace of mind is attained with power, fame and wealth. To achieve these, they work so hard, sacrificed much their time with family, friendships, and even their faith. In the end, are these really worth the price that is paid?
In this Sunday’s Gospel, our Lord offers the Beatitudes, an ‘alternative’ blessedness, or happiness if we want to put it this way. The list is somewhat simple, maybe outrageous and funny, because we look at it the other way. However, on second thought when we read and reflect on the Beatitudes, we realize that those who are called blessed by Jesus are those who have seen the world differently. They see the world as a means, rather than the end; they know that what we should work and sacrifice for, are those which should lead us eventually to God.
“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. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5: 3-12)
In the First Reading, St. John told us his vision of what happens at the end of time, when those “marked with the seal” are assembled before the throne of God. “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7: 14)
Yes indeed, this temporal world is full of distress. When we are so immersed in life’s concerns, there’s a risk that we get so carried and not being able to discern how it all connects with the greater scheme of God’s plan for our lives. When confronted with life’s heavy burdens, we have to unload by carrying the cross of others in a joyful way. (I like the way Fr. Armand described this in one of his homilies at the San Miguel Chapel.) The help we give to others we meet along the way will give us an inner joy that is hard to fathom. Nothing is left to chance. There’s always a reason for everything, but unless we pray for wisdom, we won’t be able to appreciate the experience.
We have to be consoled in the fact that we are part of the greater Church, and thus can bank on its vast array of spiritual blessings. As stated in the Apostles’ Creed, the Communion of Saints tells us the three states of the Church:
“When the Lord comes in glory, and all His angels with Him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to Him. But at the present time some of His disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God Himself triune and one, exactly as He is”‘ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 954).
As the Saints already dwell in Heaven, they fix the whole Church “…more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”
Baptism doesn’t remove our inclination to sin, having inherited original sin from our first parents Adam and Eve. Thus we are in constant struggle until we attain wholeness and whiteness by the redeeming Blood of Jesus on the Cross. Holy people suggest that in order to attain sanctity, it is vital that we disappear into the background of ordinary daily routine. This means that we go back to the Beatitudes and try to live out its meaning. We cannot mix the greatness of the world with the humility required of Christ’s followers. Meekness and humility is important. To realize this, we have to firmly believe in the message of Jesus, and that God creates greatness out of nothingness. He transforms sinners into saints.
Lest we forget, we are also required to pray for the Suffering Church, those who are in purification (i.e. in purgatory). This way we connect with the rest of the Church, and put into action what the meaning of the Communion of Saints is all about.
May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen us not to waver in our resolve to identify with Jesus and may we put this into action without wavering. Amen.