Ah yes, beatitude language. Long before Jesus’ “Sermon On The Mount” the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament (Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Sirach and the like), had established ‘beatitudes’ as a special language. The custom of referring to a person or a group as blessed (also “happy”) was to indicate that they were indeed most God-like, if you will. Therefore being merciful, making peace, and rendering justice is doing what God himself would do. It was also understood that a woman or a man who had the habit of doing these things would be considered “righteous.” This is a good thing. Righteousness in beatitude language refers not to being “justified”; rather it means being possessed in a good, right, and holy relationship with the Lord.
Now there is righteousness and there is RIGHTEOUSNESS. Lower case righteousness, for me, is equivalent to “self righteousness. (Way too much of that virus going around.) What I call “magnificent righteousness/magnificent relationship to God”—RIGHTEOUSNESS IN CAPS—comes only with living a life of complete happiness and beatitude. How does one attain the quality of completion or fullness of beatitude? It comes when, in addition to having mercy, rendering justice, and working for peace—one also mourns, one also may suffer persecution for the very fact of being RIGHTEOUS, and then one must also be meek.
Meek? Almighty God is meek? Evidently so. Remember how Jesus invited his followers to come to him if they found life burdensome, because he was “meek and humble of heart”? Meek is indeed most God-like. Meekness and humility create the greatest capacity for receiving grace and for allowing the inner workings of the Holy Spirit to take place. Was not the Virgin Mary favored because she was found to be humble and lowly—meek? God can really get through to a person like that. What would we expect after all—that Mary was chosen because she was found to be aggressive, pushy and full of herself? I think not?!
I’m not sure what you thought or felt about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount before, but I wonder if this information may have tweaked what previously you thought or believed. St. Paul sure got it right:
“God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and
God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and
God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who
count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something….”
So there you have it. Pray to be foolish, weak, lowly, despised and count for nothing. (Or do you feel that prayer has already been answered?) “We are fools for Christ sake!” (1 Corinthians, 4:10). Over my lifetime, some people, not of our faith or maybe of no faith, have implied that being a priest was foolish and a waste of time: “Look at what you’ve missed” or called me “Father What-a-Waste.” Not sure about that last one. Or how about staying with the same spouse for 50 years? Foolish? [Be careful what you think or say next!] Well, they haven’t yet published “Being a Fool For Christ for Dummies.” (Campaign fundraiser?)
In the meantime, know that I remain truly yours, a fool for Christ and for you,
— Msgr. Richard