“New” Beatitudes for Modern Christians — By Fr. Rich, OP

FrRichWebThis past November 1, Pope Francis was visiting Sweden and in the context of that visit, proposed new “beatitudes”. He was speaking about the saints and where they found their grounding.

“The best description of the saints — in fact, their “identity card” — the pope said, is found in the beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

As Christian saints have done throughout the ages, he said, Christ’s followers today are called “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus.”

New situations require new energy and a new commitment, he said, and then he offered a new list of beatitudes for modern Christians:

  • Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
  • Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
  • Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
  • Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
  • Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
  • Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.

Just as the Transfiguration that we celebrate this weekend was transformative for the disciples that witnessed it, I would offer to you that these “beatitudes for modern Christians” have the potential to transform us. They can move us from our complacency, to a place of engagement with our faith and with our community. We all have within us the potential for sainthood. A review of the stories of the saints would reveal that often there was a cathartic event or time that moved them from ordinary to a passionate striving for living out God’s call.

There are so many options to us that are engaging, helpful and can deepen our participation and presence in our communities of faith. Lent is a time that these options are brought forward more clearly, with encouragement for us to explore and commit. As I wrote last week, our Lenten practices ought to be “attainable.” These “new” beatitudes are grounded in the real concerns and issues of our greater community. We can support them in real ways whether in prayer or active engagement. Pope Francis, on January 1, challenged us to create a “politics for peace” that was grounded in the Beatitudes that Jesus gave us. Just as Christ grounded His time on earth in those invitations as He carried out his Mission, we are called this Lent to create a platform for ourselves in which to work for a changed world, grounded in justice, God’s love and compassion, and mercy for those most in need. I invite you to take a moment, and contemplate the platform that Francis has offered us for our Church. I would also invite you to recommit, as have I.

In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. Pope Francis tells us “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.”