Living the Beatitudes
- The Beatitudes, says Pope John-Paul 11, are “a sort of self-portrait of Christ”. (Veritatis Splendor, 16). Being committed to living the Beatitudes is being committed to an interior imitation of Christ.
- They are also, he says, “Invitations to discipleship & to communion of life with Christ”. They add to the imitation of Christ a commitment to shared life, to intimacy with Christ. We are not called to copy Jesus as some kind of external model but to be like him because we share his life. His will, his way of seeing, acting, loving are to become ours. This is the distinctive note of Carmelite life – intimate friendship with Christ. Engaging to live the Beatitudes puts the counsels into a Carmelite pattern.
- The Beatitudes express our commitment to living by the virtue of hope. St Thomas Aquinas calls them “the bread of hope”; they affirm that our happiness lies ahead of us, in eternity, not in ourselves & in our own activity today. Our hope lies in Christ’s way of being human.
- Because they speak of future fulfilment they speak of the Carmelites’ prophetic witness. We promise to be witnesses through them to “a good which is still to come.” We make our lives a sign of this the more the Beatitudes become a reality in us.
- The Beatitudes aren’t simply focused on individual blessedness. They look to the End of time when the Kingdom of God will be finally established. Engaging to live by the Beatitudes therefore commits us to working for, praying for, living for, the coming of that Kingdom, and abandoning our own individual concerns. We are “Kingdom people” and we’re affirming that the only way to the Kingdom is Jesus’ way of Cross & Resurrection: The happiness of which the Beatitudes are a foretaste is hidden under the veil of apparent defeat. The Kingdom begins in the action of Jesus’ disciples like a seed buried in the earth or a treasure buried in a field; it begins amid tears & persecutions. Only those committed to following the Lord unreservedly & ready to share his destiny as crucified & rejected Messiah will show forth a mysterious sharing in the happiness of Jesus who rejoices in the Father’s love. (Livio Melina, Communio, 1999)
- To declare ourselves as “Kingdom people” is to declare our belonging to the Church and to deepen our commitment to it. The Beatitudes therefore sum up our assent to the question in the ceremony for the Promise concerning binding ourselves more closely to the Church.
- They also sum up our commitment to “deepening our baptismal consecration”. Baptism makes us Church, gives us an identity as a person belonging to the Church, belonging to the End-time, made to be fulfilled by sharing in the Wedding-feast of the Lamb. By committing ourselves to living the Beatitudes we are saying “Yes” to this as the only identity that matters to us.
By Heather Ward Nottingham group