My parish priest has adult faith formation as one of his favorite things, and consequently has offered several Bible Studies from the Great Adventure program. I enjoy them a great deal; there is always something for the intellect, and often something for the heart.
Sometimes at the conclusion of one of our weekly classes, you leave thinking, "Well, that is surely interesting...I didn't know that before." And other times, when the DVD clicks off, you just think, "Whoa!" Tonight was one of those "whoa" nights.
Nearly the entire time tonight was spent on the Beatitudes in Chapter 5 of Matthew's Gospel. I never knew that the Beatitudes build upon each other. The speaker spent a long time discussing the virtue of humility. It doesn't mean going around with a long face, moaning about how pitiful you are, but rather having an honest idea of your strengths and weaknesses and knowing that you need God's help in all things.
Blessed are they that morn, does not necessarily mean cyring over deceased love ones. It means that we are aware of our brokeness and morn that the world is not all that it could be. And God comforts us!
Blessed are the meek. The meek are not pitiful little people that let themselves get walked over. Meekness is about having humilty and faith in God. It is about having serenity and self-control in difficult circumstances. It is about being "teachable". (Moses, for example.) It is "submitted strength" (think Jesus on the cross). And the meek inherit the earth, because God can safely entrust it to them.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are not satisfied with earth, but long for something better in heaven! St. Augustine said, "God thirsts for us that we might thirst for him."
Blessed are the merciful. Those that are humble and have been comforted, those who have thirsted for righteousness and been satisfied with God's mercy want to extend this gift to others. They imitate God by forgiving their neighbor.
The pure of heart have the capacity for truth; intellect and will that are attuned to the holiness of God (CCC2518) . They have a clear spiritual vision, thus, they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers. True peace comes from reconciliation with God. The "pure of heart" already stand in God's peace.
Blessed are the persecuted. The peacemakers who are spreading the gospel will inevitably be persecuted. Participating in the suffering of Christ is a way to also participate in His Glory.
There is a passage (in one of Paul's letters?) that says something about making up for what was lacking in the suffering of Jesus. And I have always wondered how anything could have been lacking in Jesus' suffering. Did God leave something out? Odd, because everything else that He has done, He has done perfectly. But tonight that question was answered. Pope John Paul II apparently wrote that nothing was lacking in the sufferings of Jesus, but that we are allowed to participate in them, and to offer our sufferings for the redemption of others.
Great, great class. It could probably stand alone as a single class on the Beatitudes. It was what I needed to hear at the time I needed to hear it. When it was done, I thought, "Wow - that makes SO much sense."