Today’s Gospel contains the famous passage known as “The Beatitudes.” Now “beatitude” is the state of being “blessed”–beatus in Latin. Beatus is the Latin translation of the Greek word makάrioς (makários)–the word used in the original Greek–also meaning “blessed” or “happy.” So the teaching in today’s Gospel is about happiness.
Looking at some of the beatitudes makes it clear that Jesus is not speaking of happiness from the usual perspective. He calls “blessed” those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are persecuted, who are insulted and who are falsely accused. It is not in suffering these injustices that one is blessed, however, but in persevering and triumphing over them rather than returning insult for injury. The triumph, however, may not be realized on earth, but will be rewarded in heaven.
We live in an imperfect world, where suffering and injustice are all too prevalent. Much of this is the result of human sinfulness: willfully perpetrated evil. Some is the consequence of human weakness. See what Saint Paul says in today’s Second Reading: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.” God is the source of strength and triumph over the world’s evils. God himself assures us of this through the Prophet Zephaniah in today’s First Reading: “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth”; and in today’s Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down. The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers.”
Jesus does not call us to be satisfied with suffering and injustice, but to be willing to do something about it. We may have to endure it ourselves, but we are also called to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and to “show mercy.” The Prophet Zephaniah also tells us to “seek justice.” Jesus is the Just One who suffers for the sake of righteousness: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Saint Peter teaches that “whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace.” (1 Peter 2:19) Using Christ as our example, Saint Peter says: “When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:23-24) In him we are truly blessed.
This weekend is the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. This year’s theme is, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” The focus of Catholic education is our students and their formation in every dimension of their lives, including their faith. Nowhere else, outside the home, can young people receive the emphasis on learning and living the Catholic faith that our Catholic schools provide. No other school system has the freedom to integrate faith into every dimension of school life. Our Catholic schools are a treasure and we have reason to celebrate. May God bless the ministry of Catholic education. Thanks to all of you who provide prayerful and financial support to our Catholic schools.
Next weekend we are taking up a second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). CCHD was founded to end the cycle of poverty in the United States by funding organizations that help people help themselves. With the tradition of improving education, housing situations and economic development, CCHD continues to make a positive impact in communities nationwide. Your contribution will defend human dignity and help those living on the margins of our society. Annual CCHD contributions to support community organizations are made possible by Catholics throughout the United States who contribute to CCHD each year. To qualify for CCHD funds, applicant organizations must not promote, in any way, activities that work against Catholic values. CCHD grants to groups in a local community require the explicit approval of the bishop of that diocese. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the collection stays in the Diocese of La Crosse for local grants. An envelope for this collection is attached to today’s bulletin. We will take up a second collection for this purpose next weekend.
Pray the Rosary this week for students, parents and teachers, and for all who are a part of our Catholic schools. Pray for all participating in our Alpha series. As always pray for peace and the safety of military personnel serving abroad.
May God bless his people with peace.