In Pope Francis’s recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), he reflects on the Beatitudes as a guide for how we can increase in holiness. Last week we looked at the values of poverty, meekness, mourning with others, and the pursuit of justice.
The Pope goes on to talk about two aspects of mercy to consider in the beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” These are serving others and being willing to engage in “forgiveness and understanding” (Gaudete et Exsultate 80). God loves and gives with abundance, forgiving us and caring for us beyond measure. We are also asked to be forgiving and understanding, keeping in mind that we are ourselves forgiven and understood. Where have I received God’s mercy and forgiveness?
Pope Francis speaks of “purity of heart” in terms of not only avoiding deceit, but also sincerely loving God and neighbor. Love helps us to see God. I can reflect on times when an experience of love helped me to see the face of God in another person, or when really loving my neighbor also helped me to see and to experience God’s love through access to my own capacity to love. Purity of heart is “keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love” (86). Where has love helped me to see God in the people around me?
Next, Francis considers, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” reminding us that peacemaking can mean more than working for global peace or opposing war. Peace also has to begin with actively building friendships in our communities. Concretely, this means staying in relationship even with “those who are a bit odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, different, beaten down by life or simply uninterested. It is hard work” (89). Rather than idealizing peace or making many conditions about who deserves it, we can actively cultivate peace even when it messy and not easy to move forward. Where do I build peace?
Last, Pope Francis reflects on the beatitude, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We are asked to challenge society and even to be a “nuisance” in struggling for justice (90). To work for justice involves “weariness and pain,” (92) but suffering for the sake of the Gospel is part of Christian holiness. We are encouraged to speak up in the face of injustice, even when it means persecution. Am I willing to stand up for matters of justice, such as working against racism or poverty, and do I accept that there is a possible price for doing so?
Questions for Further Reflection
- How can knowing I have received God’s mercy inspire me to be more compassionate and merciful, and less judgmental, with others?
- Where am I compassionate, and where do I hold back in being reconciling?
- What tarnishes my heart’s capacity to love? What graces do I need here?
- Where do I include or exclude others?
- Where do I decide that peacemaking is too risky or a waste of my energy?
- Where am I sometimes difficult to relate to, but grateful to be part of a caring community that includes me anyway?
- Where might I be inspired by the examples of saints or even ordinary people I know, who are willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness?
- In what areas can I be more courageous in speaking and acting for justice, especially on behalf of those who are most vulnerable?