This coming Sunday is All Saints day and we have the joyful experience of reflecting on the Beatitudes. It was on the shore of Galilee that Jesus preached this great sermon. He went up a mountain to teach his disciples because there was a very large crowd, which is why it is known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Traditionally in the Bible the mountain is the place where God reveals himself, so when Jesus preached on the mount he revealed himself as the divine teacher, a sort of new Moses. What is he telling us here? He is showing us a way to live, the path to true happiness. The way that he chose to live throughout his life. Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life. The Beatitudes show us a model for leading a happy life.
The first Beatitude, says that the poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. On the face of it it seems strange to link poverty and happiness. How can we consider poverty a blessing? When the Son of God became man, he chose the path of poverty and self-emptying. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Philippians: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness” (2:5-7). Jesus is God who strips himself of his glory. Here we see God’s choice to be poor: he was rich and yet he became poor in order to enrich us through his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). This is the mystery we contemplate in the crib when we see the Son of God lying in a manger, and later on the cross, where his self-emptying reaches its culmination. It is about being ‘a beggar’ before God and prayer is the way that we come before God to ask for his love. Saint Francis of Assisi is a wonderful example of someone who lived this Beatitude.
But what can we do? Pope Francis addressed young people at the World Youth Day in February this year and said: “… The Lord calls us to a Gospel lifestyle marked by sobriety, by a refusal to yield to the culture of consumerism. This means being concerned with the essentials and learning to do without all those unneeded extras which hem us in. Let us learn to be detached from possessiveness and from the idolatry of money and lavish spending. Let us put Jesus first. He can free us from the kinds of idol-worship which enslave us. Put your trust in God…. We need the courage to live simply… if we are to live by this Beatitude, all of us need to experience a conversion in the way we see the poor. We have to care for them and be sensitive to their spiritual and material needs… the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God. In the parable of the pharisee and the tax-collector (cf. Lk 18:9-14), Jesus holds the tax-collector up as a model because of his humility and his acknowledgment that he is a sinner. The widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury is an example of the generosity of all those who have next to nothing and yet give away everything they have (Lk 21:1-4).”
He then points out that there is a close connection between poverty and evangelization, When Jesus sent the Twelve out on mission, he said to them: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the labourers deserve their food” (Mt 10:9-10). Evangelization in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy which is linked to this attitude towards poverty.
Mary also expresses this Beatitude wonderfully in the Magnificat. As Pope Francis says: “The joy of the Gospel arises from a heart which, in its poverty, rejoices and marvels at the works of God, like the heart of Our Lady, whom all generations call “blessed” (cf. Lk 1:48). May Mary, Mother of the poor and Star of the new evangelization help us to live the Gospel, to embody the Beatitudes in our lives, and to have the courage always to be happy.”
On all Saints day as we remember all the Saints gone before us and reflect on the Beatitudes, take time to reflect on who your favourite Saint is and why?