In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi tells how in his student days in South Africa he became deeply interested in the Bible, especially in the Sermon on the Mount – in particular the Beatitudes the Gospel that we heard today. He became convinced that Christianity was the answer to the caste system and discrimination that had plagued India for centuries and he seriously considered becoming a Christian. One day he went to a church to attend Mass and get instructions. He was stopped at the entrance and gently told that if he desired to attend Mass he was welcome to do so in a church reserved for blacks. He left and never returned.
When I read his autobiography, I felt that Gandhi was inspired by the teaching and the life of Jesus. Being still a Hindu he understood and practiced these Christian beatitudes. Later he went on to say “if the followers of Christ were to follow the teachings of Christ, then all the people will be converted to Christ.”
Jesus began his sermon on the mount by addressing the issue of where true happiness can be found. The word beatitude literally means happiness or blessedness. Be attitudes, - the word be the prefix stands for Beautiful so I call them Beautiful attitudes. So today, the Church invites us to reflect on these 8 beautiful attitudes. Jesus summarizes the whole message of God – a call to love to God and our neighbour into these 8 beautiful attitudes. In his sermon, Jesus addresses the basic question of life: When you encounter misfortune, grief, or tragic loss, how do you respond? Is it with fear or faith? Or is it with passive acceptance or with patient hope and trust in God?
We know from our life experience that no one can escape all of the inevitable trials of life — pain, suffering, sickness, and death. When Jesus began to teach his disciples he gave them a “way of happiness” that transcends every difficulty and trouble that can weigh us down with grief and despair. Jesus’ way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from within - a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit.
Beatitudes: Culture Vs Christ
In the Gospel, the beatitudes challenge how we live in our today’s society. They challenge our cultural experiences and confront our selfish attitudes, So we can live a blessed life in the kingdom of God.
Culture preaches to have more, to become richer, have more money; Christ says to be poor in spirit then you win the heaven.
Culture says to enjoy the instant happiness, Christ says blessed are you when you cry and sweat for your happiness.
Culture says to become powerful and great; Christ says to be humble to be a servant.
Culture says use any corrupt and unjust means your gain; Christ says use the just means, be a righteous person.
Culture says if someone wrongs you, condemn them, sue them, punish them; Christ says be merciful, be forgiving, be compassionate
Culture says misuse and abuse your power, your body, your gifts; Christ says be pure of heart, body and soul
Culture says when someone attacks you fight back; Christ says be a peace maker, say a word of peace
Culture says run away from the sufferings and persecution and be safe; Christ says face it and your suffering will be rewarded in heaven.
How can we practice these beautiful attitudes in our life? How can truly live our life, as Christians - as true followers of Christ? We pray for the grace to experience the poverty of spirit, humility, purity so that we may work for justice, equality and peace to build the kingdom of God. As today we celebrate All Saints Day. We often believe that Sainthood is for a selected few. In the Gospel the word is Blessedness is also translated as Holiness, Happiness, and Joyfulness. This call to be Joyful in following is not for a selected few. It is a universal call to holiness. Let me end my reflection with beautiful reflection on Saints:
“We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with honesty, chastity and Peace. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, help the poor and enjoy good company with their friends. We need saints.”
Lord, teach us your way of Joy, guide our steps on your path of Love, and lead us to the eternal Life.
Author: Fr.Wilson Andrade, C.S.C