Category Archives: Beatitudes

‘Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Mt 5:10)


-Br Bede Mullins, OP, English Province

“Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has left household or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive back a hundredfold now in this present age – households and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” So, according to St Mark, Jesus answered the plea of Peter, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” The answer is striking because in the mix of this-worldly promises – just where we might feel uneasy that our Lord is preaching a kind of prosperity gospel – we are assured that there will be persecutions to boot: a thoroughly this-worldly promise.

The persecutions, however, are not just an add-on, another item in the list: it is not households and brothers and sisters… and persecutions, but all these things with persecutions. The common theme uniting the items of the list is family, the most immediate and intimate community of which we find ourselves a part. Even fields, the land a family-owned, formed an essential part of the family unit in the worldview of ancient Israel: land could never really leave the possession of the family that owned it, although it might be sold away for a time – and in that case, it should ideally be given over to another family member. The natural family, this tightknit, even sacred unit of society, is what the followers of Jesus must be prepared to leave behind – not to become individuals, solitary wanderers, but part of a greater family.

That new family is the Church, the family of the Lord’s disciples, who do the will of his Father and so become as brothers, sisters and mothers to him. And one of the surest bonds of that family in this world is precisely persecution – very often persecution at the hands of those who have been left behind. We sometimes hear it said, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, for future generations. It might as well be said that it is the cement of the Church in every present generation. In part, this is a sociological phenomenon: groups form their identity by distinction from other groups, and the experience of persecution even in mild forms can contribute to that self-differentiation from outsiders. More powerfully, the martyrs bear an eschatological witness: they testify that this age does not have the last say, and that there is indeed an age to come and in it the promise of eternal life. The martyr cries out with the Psalmist, “In righteousness I shall behold Your face; I shall take my fill when I awake of the vision of You.-Ps 17:15” By reminding us all of that common desire, the martyrs draw the Church into that unity of heart and soul which is a keynote of Acts – a unity of heart and soul which in those earliest times found external expression in the sharing of possessions and livelihood, making of the Church a single great household.

The martyrs are blessed not just because they go to behold the vision of God, but because they, like Christ, lay down their lives for their friends. Like all the beatitudes, this one speaks to us of a transformation that, by drawing us each closer to Christ, draws us closer into communion with one another also. ‘Blessed are they’: the promise is something we share, and we must learn to see the sharing as part of the gift. ‘

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mt 6:9)


-by Br Albert Elias Robertson, OP, English Province

“It has always struck me as slightly strange that this promise of divine adoption is offered to the peacemakers. Not in the sense that it should not be offered to them, but rather that, surely, it should be offered as the reward of all the beatitudes. After all, all of the beatitudes school us in the life of grace, and the life of grace is  expressed in our divine adoption.

The question of whether the rewards of the beatitudes are suitably assigned, and whether they refer to this life or the next, vexed the Fathers. Some held, with St Ambrose, that all the rewards of the beatitudes refer to the life to come; while Augustine says that they all refer to this present life. Chrysostom takes a middle way – some are for the future, some are for this life. Aquinas tries to settle the question by, as usual, making a distinction. Some happiness is preparing us for future beatitude in heaven, but some happiness, imperfect but still real, can be attained in this life. ‘For it is one thing,’ he says, ‘to hope that the tree will bear fruit, when the leaves begin to appear, and another when we see the first signs of the fruit.’ St Thomas assigns the beatitude of the peacemakers to 1 a contemplative happiness, which prepares us for the life to come; by making peace we show ourselves to be true followers of God, Who is the God of unity and peace.  2

But how exactly do we achieve this? Part of the way to achieve some sense of the promise offered by this beatitude is to see to whom the offer is made: peacemakers. In the scriptures, this does not have the sense it might have today of blue-helmeted UN military personnel, nor even, in the first instance, those who try to make peace within
and between homes, families, and communities. To jump to this level is already to get ahead of ourselves.

In the Scriptures, peace is richer and fuller. The meaning of the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, connotes a completeness, a wholeness. In the Psalms, peace is the reward of justice, and the crown of the rewards of the just man. Peace has its source in God – it is even a divine name as we hear in Judges when Gideon builds an altar to the Lord, and calls the place ‘the Lord is peace.’3

This revelation of Peace as a name for God finds its fullest expression in the name given to the coming Messiah by the prophet Isaiah: the Prince of Peace; and this 4 promise of peace is manifested by the angels that first Christmas night: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’ But the true 5 revelation of divine peace is found, ironically, in the cross, where Christ, the Prince of Peace, shows us that the peace He offers, is profoundly different to that of the world. For St Paul, this peace of the cross is, at its heart, a reconciliation of all things in Christ, ‘whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.’ It is in this 6 reconciliation that we find the ultimate expression of the wholeness and completeness that peace means.

But if this peace is something brought about by a divine action, how can we be peacemakers? The peace of the cross flows into our lives through the sacraments. We can see that quite clearly if we think of the words we hear at the end of sacramental confession, ‘The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.’ True peace, which 7 flows from the cross, brings peace to our souls through the sacraments. To understand this, it is worth remembering that the sacraments are the actions of Christ Himself, and 8 their power is rooted in His Passion. So when we go to confession and hear the priest 9 say, go in peace, these are the words of our Divine Healer in the Gospels. The 10 sacraments bring about that wholeness and completeness which is rooted in the reconciliation of the cross. To live an integrated life, to live a peaceful life, we must live a sacramental life. To build peace, to be a peacemaker, means, first of all, bringing peace to our own souls. Only then can this become a peace which we share with others, and bring to perfection within our own society.

To be a peacemaker is, by its very definition to be already a son or daughter of God, because true peace requires that graced communion with God which the sacraments give us. In that sense, this sacramental life are the leaves of a tree which promise good fruit in the future. The fruit of this beatitude promise will only be made manifest when all things are reconciled in Christ at the end of time. Until then, we must live in communion with God Who gives light to our darkness, and Who, through the sacraments, guides us into the way of peace.11″

Love,
Matthew

  1. ST I-II, 69, 2, resp.
  2. ST I-II, 69, 4, resp.
  3. Judges, 6:23-24.
  4. Isaiah, 9:6-7.
  5. Luke, 2:14.
  6. Colossians, 1:20.
  7. Rite for the Reconciliation of Individual Penitents
  8. ST III, 64, 3, resp.
  9. ST III, 62, 5, resp.
  10. Luke, 7:50; 8:48.
  11. Luke, 1:79.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Mt 5:8


-by Br Daniel Benedict Rowlands, O.P., English Province

“No one shall see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). Thus did the Lord speak to Moses. It is indeed true that only the angels and saints enjoy an unimpeded vision of the Holy Trinity: “for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). So, if this beatitude describes heaven, what does it teach us pilgrims? We can make progress by recognising that eternal life does not abruptly begin at death. In that magnificent formula of St Thomas, “faith is the beginning of eternal life”.

The all-too-familiar capacity of the human soul for self-centredness is matched by its astonishing capacity for self-forgetfulness. The soul in love with God yearns to lose its own life in order to be filled with the fullness of God (cf. Eph. 3:19). Losing our life for Christ’s sake liberates us to partake of the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4); the beatific vision isn’t an arbitrary reward for the feat of self denial. Purity of heart describes the state of a soul rendered capacious enough at the depths of its being to be wholly filled with the divine life. St Paul surely speaks out of this condition when he declares: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20).

Purity is so often mentioned in the context of sexual morality, yet for the ancients, the heart was the seat of the rational faculties rather than the physical senses. It is precisely this intellectual dimension of purity that we have uncovered. St Peter implicitly gives voice to it when he relates that God has cleansed the hearts of the gentiles by faith (cf. Acts 15:8). Faith is formally in the intellect: it is the assent of the intellect to the divine truth, at the command of a will cooperating with grace.

A living faith is of course a “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Through love, we cling to God with our wills, desiring union with Him, as he draws us to himself. We depend on love for this experiential contact, for the infinity of God’s being remains beyond the ken of every creature, even the divinized intellects of the blessed. That said, the intellect in its human mode certainly does help purify our faith. Through the light of reason, nourished by Sacred Scripture, Church teaching, and sound spiritual counsel, we learn to identify all those things in our lives which are not God. In so
doing, our love is purified, reserved ever more exclusively for the Creator instead of creaturely idols.

Human reasoning, however, is itself one of those things able to distract us by becoming our principal focus, or worse turning our attention to ourselves in the act of knowing. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Cleansing by faith can therefore only be perfected by God Himself: “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour” (Ps. 126:1). It is by the Holy Spirit, and especially the gift of understanding that the heart is lifted up to exalt in the depths of the blessed Trinity, and not in itself. It is through persistent prayer that we must boldly ask for this gift. “Lord, increase our faith” (Lk 17:5). In an instant, more may be disclosed than we can tell (cf. Ps. 39:6), for there is at work in us a power able to accomplish abundantly more than we can imagine (cf. Eph. 3:20). Yet, our preparation to receive such a gift is to patiently wait in darkness, walking by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

“A pure heart create for me, O God” (Ps. 50:12). Almighty and eternal God, Thou who created man on the sixth day, send forth Thy creating Spirit and realize the sixth beatitude in us; recreate in us pure hearts, so that the light of Thy countenance may penetrate us, and, as our likeness to Thee is restored by the vision of Thy refulgent glory, that same light may stream out from us for the illumination of the world.”

Love,
Matthew

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ (Mt 5:7)


-by Br Bede Mullins, OP, English Province

“‘What a cheek you have, to want to ask for something you are chary about giving!’ That’s what St Caesarius of Arles had to say to those of us who like to think of mercy as one of the cuddlier concepts of Christian faith: we like to tell ourselves about the relief that comes with forgiveness, the understanding of weaknesses, the realization that we are loved and accepted by God even with all our faults. When people talk about mercy, they usually think of these things – and they aren’t far wrong, because St Paul tells us that Christ died
for us while we were sinners still.

But there’s the rub – Christ had to die for us, an agonizing, literally excruciating and bloody death; the Holy One had to become accursed for our sakes. Graham Greene speaks memorably of the ‘appalling strangeness of the mercy of God’. Mercy comes at a price: mercy on our sins comes at the price Christ rendered for our sake on the cross. For the original readers or hearers of Matthew’s Gospel, the price-element of mercy (and its practical implications) would perhaps have been more obvious, since the word for ‘merciful’, eleemon, recognizably shares a root with the word for ‘almsgiving’, eleemosyne. If people did indeed make that connection when listening to the beatitudes, they would be thinking with the mind of St Paul, when he exhorted the Corinthians to give to his collection for the Church in Jerusalem by appeal to the graciousness of the Lord Jesus: ‘though He was rich, He made Himself poor for your sake, so that you might be enriched by His poverty’ (2 Cor. 8.9).

Mercy, then, is not just something we receive; it makes a demand on us, from two directions. Looking first to the future, we are told time and again that we cannot expect to receive in time to come what we are not willing to give now. There is something initially illogical about mercy; it revolts the instinct for justice.  Justice desires order, including orderly retaliation, but mercy involves the disruption of order: letting go an injustice done to oneself, or giving assistance (financial or otherwise) where it isn’t strictly due. And that disruption of order is always a cause of more or less suffering for the one who shows mercy. But if we don’t take the step to be merciful – to lose face in a feud, to make the effort of an unexpected kindness – the same vicious cycle of strict justice or unrepaired injustice will carry us away in its sweep, and we shall end up not knowing how to receive mercy. Think in this connection of the character of Javert, in Les Miserables: his heart is so steeled by the unswerving desire to see justice done that, in the face of genuine mercy, he can only destroy himself – such a world as admits mercy does not to him make sense.

But the second demand is laid upon us from something past: the already-accomplished mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Christ died for you leaving an example, that you should follow in his steps’, St Peter tells us (1 Pet. 2.21): that is the example of His becoming poor that we might be made rich. He has already broken the iron rule of strict justice, by reaching down from heaven to earth and overcoming all the hard and fast separations of the natural and moral order: for in Him not only heaven meets earth, but the immortal puts on mortality, almighty God becomes a man; in Him the ruler of all becomes a servant; Israel’s privileges were vouchsafed by the keeping of a strict covenant, whereas in Christ blessings are made to abound freely among all the nations. This is the Man in Whom history is transformed, the center-point that gathers into a new orbit sin-scattered humanity. Because of Him, mercy really is possible; still more, if we are to belong to Him, mercy is imperative.

Past and future meet in the present; their demand is upon us now. You will forgive me the platitude, because in this case it might illuminate something about these demands. So far the picture suggests that Christ has shown mercy to us, we show mercy to other people, and at the end Christ will bestow on us the final mercy of everlasting life. The Gospel, however, suggests that our mercy is never directed away from Christ.  Becoming poor, He identifies Himself with those to whom we can show mercy – and is that not perhaps the strangest of his mercies? ‘Whatever you did in mercy to the least of my brethren – you did it to me’ (Matt. 25.40).”

Love, be merciful to me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.
Matthew

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’ (Mt 5:6)


-by Br Albert Elias Robertson, OP, English Province

“…Perhaps the first question that we might have from hearing these words from our divine teacher is whether, in a world such as ours, we dare to hope for a truly just society? For Aquinas, justice is twofold; perfect and imperfect. We cannot, Aquinas tells us, have perfect 1 justice in this world, for the structures of injustice are rooted in human sin, and as St John reminds us, ‘…if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’

So are we doomed to simply thirst and hunger after freedom in a barren wilderness of an unjust world? The hard answer to this is, yes. True justice will, ultimately, elude us in this life, just as true peace and true freedom will too, for as the Apostle tells us, ‘our commonwealth is in heaven.’3 It might be tempting at this point to despair. After all, if we cannot build a just society why bother to try? If the poor will always be with us, why bother to try and clothe and feed them?

Part of the key here, surely, is the thirst and the hunger. It is not enough to simply do the works of justice, to perform acts of mercy and charity, unless you thirst and hunger for justice. We have to work with desire [Ed.  need irrepressible]. Just as overcoming lust requires our purification through grace, and the conversion our mind, heart, and sight, so too our deeper conversion helps us to see as Christ Himself sees, and in doing so, our thirst and hunger for justice grows.

If we cannot build a truly just society because of human sinfulness, we can, by God’s grace, build an imperfectly just society. This will require a certain bravery on our part, an openness, and also, sometimes, action. Martin Luther King often spoke out against the reluctance of Christians to act against injustice; ‘I have seen religious leaders stand amid the social injustices that pervade our society, mouthing pious platitudes and sanctimonious trivialities. All too often the religious community has been the taillight instead of the headlight.’

These pious platitudes and sanctimonious trivialities are what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace, a Christian life which is reduced to slogans and soundbites, and where grace ultimately does not take root in us. How then can we avoid pious platitudes and sanctimonious triviality? Only by listening to our Lord’s voice, for He not only reveals to us what the world is really like, but shows us also how to respond to these realities. We must speak boldly of God’s justice, and measure the reality of the world around us by His justice, and not by any human standard, for the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.4

Love,
Matthew

1 Commentary on Matthew, §427.
2 1 John, 1:8.
3 Philippians, 3:20.
4 Psalm 119:9.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ (Mt 5:5)

The meek are far from weak; in fact, they show their strength in their ability to control their anger/wrath. Aristotle defined meekness (πραΰτης – praotes) as the middle ground between being too angry and not being angry enough.


-by Br Pablo Rodriquez Jorda’, OP, English Province

“Few virtues demand greater courage of us than meekness. Think about it. Meekness is precisely what it takes to respond with gentleness when one is wronged; to resist being overcome by anger, or by desire; to hold your tongue, when you feel the impulse to criticise, or to complain; to keep on doing what you know to be right, even when everything has turned against you. To be meek, you have to be fierce, steadfast; you need all of your strength, an indomitable will, a steely determination.

Meekness is not of this world, a world where everything seeks its own advantage, everything is urged by necessity. Nature does not spare her children: whatever is dragged in her everchanging tide falls apart, disperses, loses shape, like a land untilled, parched, covered in weeds and brambles. Nothing could be farther from such passivity and inertia than meekness. We often forget the strangeness of the truly meek person. Imagine you meet someone (and perhaps you already have) who is authentic and without guile, who does and says exactly what they want to do and say. Someone who is free from inner turmoil, free to pursue what is best at every moment without hindrance or effort, and is all the happier for it. In sum, imagine you meet someone who is their own master. You would be right to think: what a strange creature, what a daunting disturbance to the order of nature!

How could we achieve such degree of self-mastery? Is it a matter of effort, of technique, of doing violence to oneself, of strength or will power? Well, in a sense it is. Strength is needed, but the best of human efforts is not enough, for the weakness of God is stronger than men. Will power is needed, but a power beyond our reach. Every day in the Our Father we pray, Thy will be done on earth, this earth which I am, often untilled, parched, covered in weeds and
brambles. In the opening story of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the stars, and all living creatures, through the power of His word; but us He shapes out of the earth, using His hands, like a craftsman producing His masterpiece. It is an image of intimacy: only God knows the depths of who I am, who I can become, who I will become. And for that reason, we pray: Thy will be done on earth. We hope to become good earth, receptive, listening, ready to be broken up and refashioned. It is, paradoxically, only when I am meek and docile to His will that I become myself. It is only by obeying Another that I become my own master. And so what seems like docility is in fact an act of courage, and the prize of our steadfastness, of our clinging to God’s will, is that we are returned to ourselves. The meek inherit the earth.”

Love,
Matthew

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ (Mt 5:4)


-by Br John Bernard Church, O.P., English Province

“Christ’s statement is startling, almost paradoxical. Blessed are those who mourn. Surely blessedness, happiness, is the very opposite of mourning, or sadness. This beatitude does not say that those who mourn now will be blessed later; that the promise of happiness is what awaits those who are sad. The contrast is much stronger, and much more baffling: happiness can be found in our mourning and our sadness now.

Our journey of Christian discipleship is directed towards our final beatitude, the beatific vision: when, freed from all transient desires, we finally see God. As St John says, “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). Our complete happiness lies in God alone.

But this context only serves to render Christ’s statement even more baffling: that in our mourning, our loss, our sadness, we are somehow participating in the final and complete blessedness and happiness of eternal life. Eternal life suddenly sounds quite miserable if it’s in the experience of our saddest moments here on earth that we get closest to it.

That’s clearly not the whole story. But it does contain some element of truth, and something deeply challenging. Letting go of what we hold dear, emptying ourselves of every attachment, so that slowly God takes His proper and rightful place as the center point of our every desire – this is difficult, and it is at times a process of loss and grief and sadness.

Christ prepares us in the Gospels for such a reality: “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Lk 9:23). St Paul rejoices in his own sufferings. In his second letter to the Corinthians, St Paul sees the good brought out of their sadness: “for the sadness used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation” (2 Cor 7:10).

This is in no way a rejoicing at suffering for its own sake: suffering in itself is not good. But it is claiming that suffering remains a central component of the Christian life, and is used by God for our own good. Why?  Surely God desires that we are happy and fulfilled, bursting with the joy of the Gospel and brought to life amidst the goodness of creation. How do we make sense of a beatitude that tells us our happiness here and now is found in sadness and loss?

Happiness is never reducible to a single experience. But sadness and loss do play a central role, because they played a central role in the life of Jesus. Christ tells us that to be followers of Him we must take up our cross because that is what He did. Sorrow over what is lost, mourning at the entry of sin into the world, is what brought God Himself to undergo death on the cross. And so part of the reason sadness is a source of blessedness is because it can be our involvement in God’s great act of redemption. It can unite us to the cross.

And this beatitude becomes clear when we don’t neglect the second half. Blessedness is not found in mourning per se, there is nothing to be gained from suffering for its own sake. Rather blessedness is found in those who mourn and are comforted.

The reality of sadness and grief and suffering is that it awakens a need for consolation. When we are able to unite our sufferings to the cross, we open our heart to receive the comfort that God alone can give. The body and soul may still hurt while the character of the suffering remains. But when united to the cross and open to solace in God, its perspective is entirely altered. And here is found the true happiness, that which is enduring and a genuine foretaste of the eternal beatitude that awaits: the conviction that however empty, however pained we may feel, the love of God alone is our true consolation.”

Love of God and God’s love of us, Jn 14:27,…shall “now” be…, Our Lady of Sorrow, pray for us,
Matthew

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 5:3)


-by Br Pablo Rodríguez Jordá, O.P., English Province

“‘If the Sermon on the Mount is a summary of all Christian doctrine, the eight Beatitudes are a summary of the whole Sermon on the Mount’ (Bossuet, Méditations sur l’Évangile, I.1). But what are the Beatitudes? Are they promises, blessings, conditions to be a disciple? Jesus, in the manner of a prophet, seems to peer into the future to foretell the destiny that awaits His disciples: they shall obtain mercy, they shall be comforted, they shall inherit the earth. But the Beatitudes strike us also as a summons to follow Him, addressed to all the broken-hearted, to those who weep, who are oppressed and toil for justice and peace. Jesus’ words have even the ring of some severe conditions to be his disciple: ‘if you are pure in heart, you shall see God’.

Yet the Beatitudes do not only reach out into the future. The first and the last, significantly, end with the same words, and refer to the now of those who hear: ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. This seems to echo the words of Jesus in another place, when asked about the time of the coming of the kingdom: “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk 17:20-21). Many have taken these last words, ‘the kingdom of God is in the midst of you’, to mean ‘the kingdom is within you’, as if it were found by turning inward, through some sort of introspection. But God always comes to meet us from the outside, through the word we hear proclaimed, or through the sacraments of His presence. The Gospels vibrate with the sense that the kingdom has arrived and one need not wait any longer. The time of salvation certainly stretches into the future but, more importantly, it begins today, in this present moment. And it begins, above all, in the encounter with Jesus, who always ushers in a fresh start in every human story.

‘The kingdom of God is in our midst’ – and if this does not refer to some remote event, nor to some elevated inner state of mind, then it must refer to Jesus Himself, the King Who has entered human history and inaugurated a new time, and who demands a specific answer from each of us. How are we to respond? Jesus says, the kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit. To those who realize, simply, that they are far from perfect, that they do not have everything sorted out, that there is something that they lack and they cannot give themselves, but can only receive from another. St Augustine is often quoted as saying, ‘God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them’. Here lies the key to the Beatitudes, to the Sermon of the Mount and indeed the Gospels. I do not have what I need most, and I cannot give it to myself. My own poverty becomes evident to me, but only then can I receive the kingdom, which is Jesus’ gift of Himself to me. And this happens not in some remote future but now, whenever we open our hearts and invite Him in.”

Love,
Matthew

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. -Mt 5:4


-please click on the image for greater detail.


A view of the cross and the sculpture ‘Pieta’ by Nicholas Coustou behind debris inside the Notre-Dame de Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral, in Paris, France, 16 April 2019. The fire started in the late afternoon on 15 April in one of the most visited monuments of the French capital.
Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris fire aftermath, France – 16 Apr 2019, please click on the image for greater detail.

Through the grace and mercy and Providence of God, I have had the opportunity to be comforted in my trials of depression and anxiety, and my experience of the vicissitudes of others.

I have had the privilege to comfort others in suffering the effects of job loss, food insecurity, age discrimination, divorce, death, and alcoholism, as well as the general vicissitudes of human nature they experience.  Praise Him!!!!!!

I know others have had to be comforted from my own vicissitudes I have inflicted on them.  Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man.


-by Br Mary Francis Day, OP

“This has always struck me as the most outstanding and counterintuitive of the beatitudes. The beatitude itself is a promise, not for the present sorrow, whatever it might be, but for the future. What is it to be comforted or consoled? As Merikakis notes in Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, to be consoled is to be “called to someone’s side.” If to be in desolation is be abandoned and alone, consolation implies that someone has come to be with me in my sorrow. This beatitude is the promise of an interior presence that is capable of transforming suffering from within.

What kind of presence is this? The kind of happiness that consolation brings cannot come from naivete. Divine consolation is a help to us in a world that is very much fallen and reeling from its wounds. As Christ rose on Easter, with the marks of the nails still in his hands and feet, so by the grace of the Resurrection, we are to rise with our own wounds. These wounds are to be glorified by a life of grace spent following Christ, but they are still wounds. Understood this way, consolation is not incompatible with loss or mourning—it presupposes it. In His Paschal Mystery, Jesus did not eliminate suffering, but He did something only God can do: He transformed it. What was once a mark of sin and death can now be sign of light and life. The aid that comes to us in our own afflictions is the presence of God in our souls, which heals us, and lets us know that we are not alone, and that nothing has been suffered in vain.

We can understand consolation as the interior awareness of this presence, which is a response to our frailty. This divine compassion is not just a sentiment, it is a person: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). We call the Holy Spirit “the gift of God most high” because it is by means of the Spirit’s presence that we receive consolation. It is a gift that is freely and abundantly given to all the baptized. Baptism, after all, is nothing less than the divine adoption whereby we become brothers with Jesus and sons of the same Father.

Most of the time, the best consolers are those whom we know and love. The closer someone is to us, the easier it is receive comfort from them. (Ed.  It is equally true, likely moreso, that those closest to us are the cause of our sorrow and mourning, rather than our comfort and the consolation.  Who else can cause such grief?)  This (consolation) is all the more true of the Holy Spirit, Who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. And this is necessary: sometimes human comfort is not enough to cope with loss. Like the mothers of Bethlehem after the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, we may be unable to accept merely human comfort: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more” (Matt 2:18). It is at this point that we must be silent and wait for God to act. This kind of passivity is not stoic resignation, or “acceptance” of the inevitable; it is an act of hope, which is among the most strong and striking of the virtues. “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” (Ps 31:24).”

Love & consolation,
Matthew

“Blessed are they who mourn…” – Mt 5:4

“…But there is also the mourning occasioned by the shattering encounter with truth, which leads man to undergo conversion and to resist evil. This mourning heals, because it teaches man…

…Peter is an example of (this) second kind: Struck by the Lord’s gaze, he bursts into healing tears that plow up the soil of his soul. He begins anew and is himself renewed.

Ezekiel, Chapter 9

Then I heard Him call out in a loud voice, “Bring near those who are appointed to execute judgment on the city, each with a weapon in his hand.” And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

As I listened, He said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple.

Then He said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!” So they went out and began killing throughout the city. While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?”

He answered me, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.’ 10 So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”

11 Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, “I have done as You commanded.”

Ezekiel 9:4 offers us a striking testimony to how this positive kind of mourning can counteract the dominion of evil. Six men are charged with executing divine punishment on Jerusalem—on the land that is filled with bloodshed, on the city that is full of wickedness (cf. Ezek 9:9). Before they do, however, a man clothed in linen must trace the Hebrew letter tau (like the sign of the Cross) on the foreheads of all those “who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the city” (Ezek 9:4). Those who bear this mark are exempted from the punishment. They are people who do not run with the pack, who refuse to collude with the injustice that has become endemic, but who suffer under it instead. Even though it is not in their power to change the overall situation, they still counter the dominion of evil through the passive resistance of their suffering—through the mourning that sets bounds to the power of evil.

…Once again, as in the vision of Ezekiel, we encounter here the small band of people who remain true in a world full of cruelty and cynicism or else with fearful conformity. They cannot avert the disaster, but by “suffering with” the one condemned (by their com-passion in the etymological sense) they place themselves on his side, and by their “loving with” they are on the side of God, Who is love.

…Those who do not harden their hearts to the pain and need of others, who do not give evil entry to their souls, but suffer under its power and so acknowledge the truth of God—they are the ones who open the windows of the world to let the light in. It is to those who mourn in this sense that great consolation is promised. The second Beatitude is thus intimately connected with the eighth: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10).

The mourning of which the Lord speaks is nonconformity with evil; it is a way of resisting models of behavior that the individual is pressured to accept because “everyone does it.” The world cannot tolerate this kind of resistance; it demands conformity. It considers this mourning to be an accusation directed against the numbing of consciences. And so it is. That is why those who mourn suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness. Those who mourn are promised comfort; those who are persecuted are promised the Kingdom of God—the same promise that is made to the poor in spirit. The two promises are closely related. The Kingdom of God—standing under the protection of God’s power, secure in His love—that is true comfort.”

Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Kindle Locations 1418-1429, 1430-1433, 1436-1445). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Love, blessed be God,
Matthew