Why the beatitudes?

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

I BELIEVE we are all familiar with the beatitudes, those Christ-defined formulation of how we can be considered blessed. (cfr. Mt 5,1-12) They intriguingly convert what we usually consider as human disasters or clear disadvantages and inconveniences according to worldly standards into a source of joy, a means of our redemption, a path to heaven, narrow and difficult though they may be.

They expand our understanding of what should comprise as our true happiness by including those situations which we normally regard as unsavory and therefore to be avoided as much as possible and hated even.

They portray the way love, which is the essence of God and is what is also meant for us, can be lived in the confusing condition of our earthly life where good and evil are mixed up.

That is why the Catechism teaches us that the beatitudes are considered as depicting “the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory his Passion and Resurrection, they shed light on the actions and the attitudes characteristic of the Christian life,” it says.

And it adds, “They are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations, they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples; they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.” (1717)

The beatitudes are so articulated by Christ in order to serve as a profound and most effective antidote to our strong, almost invincibly strong tendency to self-love, to self-indulgence.

Yes, we need to declare an unrelenting war against our self-indulgence which has become a very formidable problem we all have. Yes, this has always been a problem to us, but these days it is much more so.

With the many new wonderful things that can instantly give us convenience, comfort, pleasure and satisfaction, many of us are trapped into the very sticky web of obsessions, addictions and the many other forms of self-indulgence that feed on our weaknesses, like lust, pride, conceit, gluttony, unhinged curiosities, envy, etc., etc.

We just have to give a cursory look around to see how bad this problem is. Many people are just looking at their cellphones most of the time. There are reports saying that many young people often forget their meals and lose sleep because of what they do in the Internet. It’s clear they are terribly hooked there and it seems it’s now next to the impossible to get them out of there.

As a result, many duties and responsibilities are left unattended. Disorder and chaos are fast gaining ground as priorities are skewed. Superficiality has now become a mainstream lifestyle, reinforcing the trend toward consumerism, materialism and what Pope Francis refers to as the “throw-away culture” where ethical and moral considerations are ignored or even flouted, i.e., regarded with contempt.

In short, the beatitudes detach us from our own selves so that we can truly identify ourselves with Christ who is the very pattern of our humanity and the savior of our sin-damaged humanity. They are actually a way to our liberation from our own self-inflicted bondage to merely earthly and bodily urges. They purify us from any stain caused by our worldly attachments.

They have to be understood from the point of view of our faith and never just from our own estimations of things, no matter how impressive these estimations may be due to our philosophies, ideologies, cultures, etc.

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com