Archbishop Follo: The Beatitudes

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Archbishop Follo: The Beatitudes

zenit.org

Let us meditate on the words of Jesus who today tells us: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you, have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” (Lk 6, 20 – 26).

Listening to these words, let’s allow Christ to touch our mind and our heart and to heal ourselves completely, from the root of our illnesses. Indeed, Jesus came to bring love and life that overcome selfishness and death. The egoist seeks riches and takes everything to dominate others and be superior to everyone. The one who loves gives everything, up to the point of giving himself, serves the others with humility, and is blessed, happy on earth and for eternity.

1) The Beatitudes according to Luke.

The initial verse of today’s Gospel (Lk 6:17) is very solemn and precise. After praying all night and then having chosen his twelve apostles, the Redeemer descends from the mountain to flat ground and pronounces his speech surrounded by the disciples and a crowd that is coming from everywhere, even from the pagan districts of Tire and Sidon. The comparison with the Beatitudes of Matthew (5.3-12) offers us the way to notice some peculiarities of the narration of Luke, whose way of narrating is more personal than that of Matthew and directly involves the listener (“Blessed are you poor”). Moreover, Luke speaks of the poor, the crying, the hungry and the persecuted, without specifying – as Matthew does – that they are poor in spirit and hungry for justice. Finally, Luke lists three menaces, which give the speech a tone that is very drastic and radical (6,24-26).

The prophets had described the messianic time as the time when God would have taken care of the poor, the hungry and the persecuted. Jesus proclaims that this time has arrived. For the prophets, the beatitudes were a hope: “There will come a time when the poor will be blessed”. For Jesus it is a

present: today the poor are blessed. The reason is only one, fundamental: the Messiah, the King of kings and the Kingdom, has arrived. It is in the light of the Kingdom that has arrived – a Kingdom that overturns common values – that the paradoxicality of the words of Jesus is justified.

While Matthew lists eight Beatitudes, Luke proposes four which concern the poor, the weeping, the hungry, and the persecuted. Starting from the same source, Matthew and Luke offer different texts because the evangelists are not simply reporters interested only in transmitting facts and words, but witnesses. The words of Jesus are a ferment of life: the primitive Church transmits them only wrapped in its own life (J. Dupont).

According to Luke’s way of thinking and living, “poor” does not simply mean who he is devoid of means, but indicates the situation of the neglected beggar, poor alongside rich people, and mocked. The weeping and hungry are basically a repetition of the poor. More than to virtues (like Matthew), Luke seems to refer to the multitude of the poor who have not sought their poverty and yet are called to live it. The fourth beatitude (the persecuted) is that of the disciple, of the one who has chosen to follow Jesus finding himself involved in his destiny of persecution. These brief explanations bring out a severe judgment on the world of the rich: a judgment that is strengthened if you read the four menaces: “Woe to you rich, woe to you who are satiated, woe to you who now laugh, woe to you who are now applauded “.

With the Beatitudes and the “menaces”, Christ presents another criterion of values. While the scale of values that we follow nowadays are exactly the principle of violence, war, killing, death, the killing of being children and being brothers, and the extermination of the goods of the earth, the other, instead, is the principle of love, gift, solidarity, life, livable life, of being children, of being brothers.

2) “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”

If we follow the non-Christian logic, we say: “Blessed are the rich, blessed are satiated, blessed are the joyful, and blessed the honored and famous”. The one who says the opposite is considered a madman or someone who wants to joke.

Let’s see what it means to be blessed in a Christian way. Blessed means: I congratulate you, you won. You’re on the right side: lucky you! Blessed are you is a form of congratulation. And Jesus congratulates the poor! The gospel of Luke in Greek uses the word “poor”. Poor would be the opposite of rich. The rich is the one who has a lot with little effort, ideally without effort. The poor is the one who has little with great effort. The word used in Greek by Luke is “ptochoi“. Who is the “miser”? It is the one who possesses nothing and is in great pain. Therefore, he lives on almsgiving, gifts, dependence. Speaking of these people, Luke says the reason why they are blessed: not because they are poor, but because “yours is the Kingdom of God “.

This bliss is in the present: the kingdom of God is already “yours”. What does it mean that the kingdom of God belongs to the miser? The kingdom of God is God himself who reigns on earth. On Earth, we see that the ones who rule are the rich who dominate over the others.

God reigns in another way. God reigns by serving because he is love. Love gives everything, up to the point of giving itself. God is extremely poor because he loves, gives everything, and gives himself.

God himself is a gift. Sin is wanting to possess the gift as we please, and so we destroy it. The gift is significant because it is related to those who donate and, therefore, we do not fall into fetishism and into the idolatry of things.

If we live a gift by sharing it, it always remains a gift and is revived. If, however, we greedily seize the gift, in the end, we deny the very life that is a gift. Life is a gift; all the fundamental things are a gift. We are called to live of gifts, like the poor.

Accumulating and finding the good only in things is believing that our life is made of things that we must hold tightly. We become slaves of things. We immolate our life to things. The poor die of hunger and the rich die of stress. This is not life.

The desire for things divides us and destroys us. This is why poverty -as very often, fortunately, Pope Francis reminds us – it is the most sublime thing that there is to learn for the salvation of the world. Otherwise, the world is lost because if we all want to own ourselves, we destroy each other. The important thing is to understand the beauty of this poverty and that every true relationship is poor because it is not control over the other person who is not our property. Let’s receive the other for free, otherwise what kind of relationship is that? The children must be loved for free and husband and wife truly love each other when they love each other for free: one is a gift for the other and both are a gift from God.

The consecrated Virgins are called to live and witness this life of gift. They, with the total gift of themselves to Christ Spouse, become a concrete image of the Bride Church. These consecrated women are called to live like the Virgin Mary: tender and humble, poor in things and rich in love. “The nature of the Church is reflected in the life of consecrated virgins. It is animated as much by charity as by contemplation and action; it is disciple and missionary; it yearns for eschatological fulfillment and at the same time shares the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are the most fragile or poor; it is immersed in the mystery of divine transcendence and incarnate in the history of humanity”.( Instruction “Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago” on the “Ordo virginum” , n. 20).

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 11:36
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