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Father Muench Says...

Beatitudes: the Lord’s path to happiness

Sept. 3, 2014

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

In a recent papal audience, Pope Francis gave the people there homework – indeed, it is homework for all of us.  He suggested that we all would be better Christians if we learned, even memorized, the Beatitudes.

I suspect you remember the Beatitudes, statements of Jesus that are found in the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel 5:3-12.  So, I would like to follow Pope Francis’ lead and write a bit on the Beatitudes as we work together to memorize them.

I know exactly why in my generation few of us memorized the Beatitudes; some of us never even studied the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes were in the back section of the Catechism – the Ten Commandments were near the front.

Each year, beginning in first grade, we began at the beginning of the book but never got to the last chapters like the section on the Beatitudes.  Then, in the second grade, we started at the beginning of the Catechism all over again and again never got to the Beatitudes. And such it continued each year. 

So, now will be good time for us to get to the Beatitudes.

The United States Catechism for Adults helps us to understand the Beatitudes.  The word, beatitude, refers to a state of deep happiness or joy.  Jesus taught the Beatitudes as the foundation for a life of authentic Christian discipleship and the attainment of ultimate happiness.  They give the spirit of love to the Ten Commandments.
So, I think I will use a few weeks to consider with you the Beatitudes and reflect on how these Beatitudes are the Lord’s path to happiness for us.  So, let’s begin. 

The first of the Beatitudes is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”  Take a moment and read it over a few times as you begin to memorize it.

Poverty means need.  A financially poor person needs more things – material things – money. 
Someone “poor in spirit” realizes that they are in need.

Someone “poor in spirit” realizes that they need a new and stronger faith to discover happiness in life. 
Someone “poor in spirit” realizes that they need divine support and strength of will to make their life meaningful and happy. 

Where do we find this? Only in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of heaven – the Kingdom of God – is a dedication in faith of all those who are united in spirit with our Savior, Jesus Christ, knowing that they need a stronger faith.  The Kingdom of Heaven is not about how much someone knows or how holy they are.  The Kingdom of Heaven is about a strong dedication to the Lord, a trust and confidence in the Lord, a desire to strengthen faith in God. 

We become part of the Kingdom of Heaven when we realize in poverty that we need the Lord – we need the Lord’s help and concern – and have the dedication to fill that need.

The Kingdom of Heaven begins with prayer.  As a Christian, I pray because I believe in God’s great love for me.
Prayer helps me to become a person – a loved person – living in the spirit of my God. 

Prayer guides me to know who God is and who I am.  God is love – God’s love for us is demonstrated in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. God’s gift to me is the gift of faith, a faith in this God, who loves me so much.  Recognizing God’s gift to me, I will always recognize God’s love and support and concern for me.

The Kingdom of Heaven becomes part of my life as a Christian each time I celebrate the Eucharist.  The Blessed Eucharist unites me to my Lord and Savior in a very special and unique way.  In this way, I have the power or Our Lord to make a difference in life.  In this way, I will discover all I can accomplish and the happiness and satisfaction of a good Christian life.

Looking ahead: The second of the Beatitudes is “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

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