Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
If someone were to ask you which words of Jesus are your most favourite or which passage of the Gospels the most inspirational, I’m sure that many would respond by saying: the Beatitudes. This single passage is considered the heart of the Gospels, because it is at the very core of Jesus’ teaching and at the base of all his other sermons and parables. There are indeed many beautiful words, sentences, passages and entire chapters of the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament, but the one we just heard proclaimed, takes a special place amongst them all.
One may ask why is this passage on the Beatitudes so popular and why does it attract our attention? If we examine the text well, we can see that each beatitude is a description of Jesus and his life. The nine verses illustrate what Jesus was like and how different he was from the people of his time and of all times!
Jesus chose poverty of spirit instead of material wealth. The Son of God was born into a poor family and he thereby taught us the importance of not being attached to material goods. He said that we need not worry about what we are to eat and what we are to wear (Cf. Mt 6:31). The poor in spirit are those who know that material things mean nothing and that God means everything in their lives. Jesus commended mourning for the right reasons and the sake of truth instead of rejoicing in the false pleasures of the world. He praised meekness or humility instead of arrogance and pride. He congratulated those hungry for justice and what is right instead of injustice and falsehood. He always showed mercy and never cruelty. He blessed purity of heart instead of dishonesty. He promoted peacefulness instead of brutality. He forgave those that unjustly persecuted him. He remained faithful to the Father despite being condemned to death. The principles that Jesus lived by were so radically different from those of world as we know it.
The standards of blessedness that Jesus mentions in this part of the Sermon on the Mount are the deep inner desire of all of humanity. Generations before us have strived to realize them and I believe that many today throughout the world also are doing their best to live by these principles.
While the beatitudes describe the person and life of Jesus, they are also an illustration of mankind. One can easily find in every corner of the world people who are poor, victims of injustice and persecuted for simply being different. The pain of sufferings endured from other human beings is constantly breaking their hearts. Nevertheless, despite their difficulties they do not lost hope and continue to believe in God and strive to live according to his teachings, by being humble peacemakers, promoters of justice, poor in spirit and even material wealth, yet rich in God! To these, Christ promises theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The beatitudes are also very demanding because they are an invitation to be different as Christ was different. Only the courageous and strong, those who place all their trust in God and remain faithful to him can withstand the pressures of society to conform and live according to the mentality of the world. By modelling our lives according to the light of the beatitudes, we can discover our true calling and identity as Christians, invited to follow Christ in this path that he himself took. It is a ‘road less travelled’, that includes sacrifices and crosses along the way, yet it is the path that leads to true freedom and the blessedness of his kingdom. And to those that follow it Christ says: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven!