Our New Life in Christ: The Beatitudes
(Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1691-1718)
April 7, 2013 “Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1691).
The Sacraments are the beginning of a new life and at the same time they give us the strength we need to live this new life. What is this risen life to which all Christians are called through baptism? It is a life in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit: “Christ Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father (cf. John 8:29), and always lived in perfect communion with him. Likewise Christ's disciples are invited to live in the sight of the Father” (1693). Christian life is an imitation of Christ; it is to follow his example (cf. 1694). It is also a life in the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, to sanctify, enlighten and help us to do the will of God (cf. 1695).
This new life is important for our salvation: “The way of Christ "leads to life"; a contrary way "leads to destruction." (Matt 7:13). The Gospel… shows the importance of moral decisions for our salvation” (1696). So let me introduce today briefly the moral teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
1. How should it be a Catholic catechesis on moral subjects?
The Catechism says: “Catechesis has to reveal in all clarity the joy and the demands of the way of Christ”. It should be “a catechesis of the Holy Spirit, the interior Master of life… a catechesis of grace…, a catechesis of the beatitudes [of happiness]…, a catechesis of sin and forgiveness, for unless man acknowledges that he is a sinner he cannot know the truth about himself… and without the offer of forgiveness he would not be able to bear this truth; a catechesis of the human virtues which causes one to grasp the beauty and attraction of righteousness… a catechesis of the Christian virtues… [and] the example of the saints; a catechesis of the twofold commandment of charity set forth in the Ten Commandments; an ecclesial catechesis” (1697). “The first and last point of reference of this catechesis will always be Jesus Christ himself, who is "the way, and the truth, and the life."”. As St. Paul puts it: “For to me, to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21) (cf. 1698)
2. The dignity of the human person.
Moral life fulfills the vocation of the human being (cf. 1699). What is that vocation? In order to understand this, the Catechism tells us first about the dignity of the human person.
“The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (1700) “"Christ makes human being fully manifest to human being itself, and brings to light its exalted vocation." It is in Christ, "the image of the invisible God," that human being has been created "in the image and likeness" of the Creator” (1701). “Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude. He pursues his perfection by "seeking and loving what is true and good" (GS 15)” (1711). “In man, true freedom is an "outstanding manifestation of the divine image" (GS 17)” (1712). “Man is obliged to follow the moral law, which urges him "to do what is good and avoid what is evil" (cf. GS 16). This law makes itself heard in human conscience” (1713).
3. What is our vocation?
The treatise of Morals in the Catechism begins with the Beatitudes. Beatitude, happiness, is the vocation of human beings. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:1ss; cf. CCC 1716). “The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection” (1717). “The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness” (1718)
Before the commandments, the Catechism puts the Beatitudes. There is a reason for that. Jesus began with the Beatitudes. The reason, however, is not that the Beatitudes are easier. They are more difficult. We will never understand it: happiness is difficult to attain, but that is the real happiness, the one that is difficult. What is better, I ask: to have a brand new truck with all commodities and modern devices, or to have a good car that runs and that’s it? Well, we all know what is good. But if you want the brand new truck, do you have to work more, or less? More, much more. In Argentina people would say: “You have to work like a horse”. I suggest, however, that we, human beings, instead of working like horses, should work like angels, in our own spirit, in our own heart, to attain the happiness that God wants to give us, the happiness of God himself.
Let me make the connection of the three points: our Catechesis on moral life should be a teaching on the actions we need to do in order to be happy like the angels, like Jesus is happy, like God himself is happy. It does not mean that is easy, but it’s worth it, like a brand new truck… if you like trucks, of course. What is truly great is never cheap. The happiness that God offered to human persons is great.
Let us ask the Lord to make us understand this; that our difficulties to do the commandments are the price of our salvation, the price of our true happiness. That “the sufferings of this life are nothing in comparison with the Glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). That there is no greater happiness on earth than to follow Jesus, and be his friend now and for ever.