Gaudete et Exultate (Rejoice and be Glad) – Part 2
Last week I introduced you to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Rejoice and be Glad (Gaudete et Exsultate). Gaudete et Exsultate is a type of communication from the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church that encourages people to undertake a particular activity but does not define Church doctrine like an ”encyclical” might. An on-line copy can be found courtesy of America Magazine or it can be purchased on-line as well.
One section that I found particularly fruitful was “Chapter Three: In The Light Of The Master.” It is Pope Francis’ reflection on “The Beatitudes.” We began my covering “Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit” and Blessed Are The Meek.” This week, we look at three more beatitudes.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”
The world tells us exactly the opposite: entertainment, pleasure, diversion and escape make for the good life. The worldly person ignores problems of sickness or sorrow in the family or all around him; he averts his gaze. The world has no desire to mourn; it would rather disregard painful situations, cover them up or hide them. Much energy is expended on fleeing from situations of suffering in the belief that reality can be concealed. But the cross can never be absent.
A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths and finding authentic happiness. He or she is consoled, not by the world but by Jesus. Such persons are unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief. They sense that the other is flesh of our flesh, and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds. They feel compassion for others in such a way that all distance vanishes. In this way they can embrace Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”
Hunger and thirst are intense experiences, since they involve basic needs and our instinct for survival. There are those who desire justice and yearn for righteousness with similar intensity. Jesus says that they will be satisfied, for sooner or later justice will come. We can cooperate to make that possible, even if we may not always see the fruit of our efforts.
Jesus offers a justice other than that of the world, so often marred by petty interests and manipulated in various ways. Experience shows how easy it is to become mired in corruption, ensnared in the daily politics of quid pro quo, where everything becomes business. How many people suffer injustice, standing by powerlessly while others divvy up the good things of this life. Some give up fighting for real justice and opt to follow in the train of the winners. This has nothing to do with the hunger and thirst for justice that Jesus praises.
True justice comes about in people’s lives when they themselves are just in their decisions; it is expressed in their pursuit of justice for the poor and the weak. While it is true that the word “justice” can be a synonym for faithfulness to God’s will in every aspect of our life, if we give the word too general a meaning, we forget that it is shown especially in justice towards those who are most vulnerable: “Seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Hungering and thirsting for righteousness: that is holiness.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy”
Mercy has two aspects. It involves giving, helping and serving others, but it also includes forgiveness and understanding. Matthew sums it up in one golden rule: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). The Catechism reminds us that this law is to be applied “in every case”, especially when we are “confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult”.
Giving and forgiving means reproducing in our lives some small measure of God’s perfection, which gives and forgives superabundantly. For this reason, in the Gospel of Luke we do not hear the words, “Be perfect” (Matthew 5:48), but rather, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 6:36-38). Luke then adds something not to be overlooked: “The measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Matthew 6:38). The yardstick we use for understanding and forgiving others will measure the forgiveness we receive. The yardstick we use for giving will measure what we receive. We should never forget this.
Jesus does not say, “Blessed are those who plot revenge”. He calls “blessed” those who forgive and do so “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion. If we approach the Lord with sincerity and listen carefully, there may well be times when we hear his reproach: “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33).
Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness.