Pope Francis resumed his catechesis on the Church, during his first General Audience since June. He focuses this week’s teaching on how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament by giving a new teaching on mercy in the beatitudes.
1.)“John points to Jesus and calls us to follow him in repentance and conversion. The new law which Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount perfects the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai.”
In the Sermon on the Mount we are introduced to The Golden Rule – “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (NRSV- Catholic Ed). What I find particularly appealing about this translation is the first two words – IN EVERYTHING.
If we are going to care for our neighbors (including “the least of these) as fully as these words from Matthew’s gospel entreat us to do, then we must absolutely begin where John the Baptist points us — to repentance and conversion. We can say “Lord, Lord” yet never embrace what Jesus is teaching unless we are willing to repent — admit our faults and failings, accept culpability for them, and express contrition. Then be transformed — take that next step to enact real change in our hearts and our lives. It is not in some things we are called to follow and be like Jesus, but in everything.
2.) “At the heart of the new covenant is our realization that, in Christ, we are embraced by God’s mercy and compassion, and that our lives must bear witness to his love for all our brothers and sisters.”
In the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus uses the forgiveness of monetary debts to enlighten us to the greatest treasure we possess, the Father’s willingness to wipe away all of our sins and the punishment that comes from carrying that debt. How can we possibly hold another’s sins against them when we have (and continue to be) forgiven for so much and loved so deeply?
In a recent conversation with a very wise Priest, I mentioned how another friend had been upset by a couple, “living in sin.” His response, was quick and to the point — “aren’t we all.” When we put away that accusatory finger and instead share how God’s love and mercy has transformed our lives, then we present to others a more accurate image of Church.
3.) “…let’s do something: I give you a task for home, a task to do at home. Take the Gospel, the one you carry with you … Remember that you must always carry a small Gospel with you, in your pocket, bag, always; the one you have at home. Carry the Gospel; and, the Beatitudes are in the first chapters of Matthew – I believe in the 5th. And today, tomorrow read them at home. Will you do it? [Hall: yes!] Not to forget them, because it is the Law that Jesus gives us! Will you do it? Thank you.”
How do we measure our joy, peace or love, in the materials we have accumulated or the status we have obtained? The Beatitudes are so counter-cultural; they can make our head spin as we try to rectify what they are teaching with the world in which we live. They only make sense in light of the Gospel.
If we are ignorant of Scripture, as St. Jerome teaches us, we are ignorant of Christ. If we are ignorant of Christ, then we do not know His teachings, and without those as a constant road map we will get lost.
We are all well aware that current American culture does not teach meekness, mercy or mourning as an admirable or desired traits, and certainly not a way to discover true joy. Yet, Pope Francis’ reminds us, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven,” (Mt 5:12) and “The Beatitudes are the path that God indicates as an answer to the desire of happiness inherent in man…”
Need a refresher yourself on the Beatitudes? Read the Beatitudes in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1716) – as well as the rich teaching in Article 2: Our Vocation to Beatitude.
Want to read the entire text? Visit: August 6 General Audience on Zenit.org