vol 22, no. 283
Today begins the first of five parts on our Lord's Sermon on the Mount as we zero in on the Beatitudes for the first few installments. By better understanding the discernment holy Mother Church provides us, we can more readily see how Scripture as well as doctrine has been so skewered today that it is unrecognizable as coming from the Son of God, but something manipulated by satan's minions whose goal is to please man rather than pleasing God by saying it the way God wants it said. We just completed the feast of St. Jerome at the end of last month. It was he who was inspired by the Holy Ghost to compile the true words of Christ, His evangelists and Apostles as divine revelation. Therefore, by comparing three orthodox sources - the Haydock Commentary, Catholic Encyclopedia and St. Thomas Aquinas' words we can better understand and see how so many translations today and interpretations offered by unreliable sources do not come from the Holy Ghost. Perhaps the culprits who have fostered the confusion should read what "meek and humble" really mean.
During this time of great confusion, when there is no visible unifying head of the Church on earth, the faithful must get their priorities right. It is tempting to get caught up in controversies, and to make them the be-all and end-all of our existence instead of following the call to holiness. This is not to say that we should turn a blind eye to reality, or ignore truth for the sake of convenience. Far from it. It is incumbent upon the faithful, to the extant that they are capable, and to the degree their state in life allows them to, to try their best to get to the root causes of why the Church is the way it is right now, so they can know what to do about it. At a bare minimum we should be informed enough to avoid the new "mass" and the new "sacraments" administered by the new "priests".
From there, we need to inform our conscience the best we can, on whether we should attend Masses offered in union with the none-Catholic head of the Vatican Institution or not, and act accordingly. If we have children, or are easily scandalized, we should avoid frequenting places where the sermons can be filled with half-truths, and complete falsities. Beyond that, our main goal is to live a virtuous life. Inserting ourselves into endless controversies, for any reason other than seeking how to live more virtuously, is generally a waste of time that could be better used in prayer. Casting stones, and slinging mud (especially when done in the public forum, because when scandal is caused publicly, then it becomes incumbent on others to minimize the scandal publicly) at our fellow-Catholics for acting in accordance with their conscience, goes against living the virtuous life our Lord calls us to live.
Therefore, I wanted to focus on the Beatitudes and other virtues Christ speaks of in His Sermon on the Mount which is recorded by Saint Matthew in the Fifth Chapter of his Gospel. By applying our Lord's words we can better stay on the straight and narrow with no doubt as to what direction we are heading even if everyone else seems to be heading in the opposite direction.
1 Now (about the year A.D. 31) Jesus seeing the multitudes, went up into a mountain, and when He had sat down, His disciples came to Him.
Ver. 1. What is said here, does not follow immediately what was said in the preceding chapter. See Luke vi.
2 And opening His mouth He taught them, saying:
Ver. 2. Opening His mouth. It is a Hebraism, to signify he began to speak. (Witham) --- This is a common expression in Scripture, to signify something important is about to be spoken. Thus it is used in various other places, as "Job opening his mouth cursed his day, and said," &c. Daniel, chap. x. et alibi. (Jansenius) --- And why is it added, says St. Chrysostom "and opening his mouth," without doubt that we might know, that not only when he spoke, but even when silent, he gave instruction: sometimes, therefore, he opened his mouth; at other times he spoke by his very actions. (Hom. xv.)
One thing that keeps coming up in my studies of the faith is the vitalness of humility as an antidote to the root cause of all evil - pride.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
I have often wondered what "poor in spirit" actually meant. It seems from the above commentary that it means to be humble. From there we have to know what "humble" or "humility" means. It is easy to assume we have a right sense of the word but it is always good to double-check. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, humility is when a man has a modest estimate of his own worth. It is a generally safe assumption, in my estimation, that men usually think of others as being worse than they really are, and themselves to be better than they are. For instance, a melancholic person is often misjudged, and treated wrongly, because of his inability to express himself in a way where his meaning is accurately understood. An example would be a person, who in trying to unite people in the faith is deemed divisive instead of applauded. When judging others, we can only judge the exterior which prevents us from fully comprehending all the reasons why one has done or said a certain thing. Therefore it is easy to misjudge the reason why one has said or done something, thinking it stems from an evil motive when the reverse is the truth. But we know our own background and understand more fully why we are doing what we are doing and therefore tend to place ourselves on a pedestal. Humility prevents us from judging others too harshly or thinking too much of ourselves. When our thoughts are solely on God and His will, we are less inclined to judge others harshly or to think highly about ourselves.
I tend to think more highly of the Haydock commentary than the online Catholic Encyclopedia for reasons I am not qualified to go into. But these verses are packed with meaning and can have different, legitimate, meanings; primary, secondary, deeper, literal, analogical, anagogical. But the below is the Catholic Encyclopedia's definition of "poor in spirit" which differs slightly from the "humble" definition the Haydock commentary gives:
The word poor seems to represent an Aramaic 'ányâ (Hebrew 'anî), bent down, afflicted, miserable, poor; while meek is rather a synonym from the same root, 'ánwan (Hebrew 'ánaw), bending oneself down, humble, meek, gentle. Some scholars would attach to the former word also the sense of humility; others think of "beggars before God" humbly acknowledging their need of Divine help. But the opposition of "rich" (Luke 6:24) points especially to the common and obvious meaning [? - JG], which, however, ought not to be confined to economical need and distress, but may comprehend the whole of the painful condition of the poor: their low estate, their social dependence, their defenceless exposure to injustice from the rich and the mighty. Besides the Lord's blessing, the promise of the heavenly kingdom is not bestowed on the actual external condition of such poverty. The blessed ones are the poor "in spirit", who by their free will are ready to bear for God's sake this painful and humble condition, even though at present they be actually rich and happy; while on the other hand, the really poor man may fall short of this poverty "in spirit".
It is good to get our information from a variety of orthodox sources when possible, as there is room for disagreement in undefined issues. Here there may not be so much a disagreement as there is a different emphasis, the one stressing the meaning towards humility, and the other putting the emphasis on "the whole of the painful condition of the poor".
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
A casual reading of the above verse would have you thinking that the reward is merely temporal. This is why it is important to read the commentary from a Catholic source. Our Lord is saying the meek will go to Heaven! Of course to be truly, or supernaturally meek, rather than apparently meek, we must be in a state of sanctifying grace.
Ver. 4. The land of the living, or the kingdom of Heaven. The evangelist prefers calling it the land of the living in this place, to shew that the meek, the humble, and the oppressed, who are spoiled of the possession of this earth by the powerful and the proud, shall obtain the inheritance of a better land. (Menochius) "They shall possess the land," is the reward annexed by our Savior to meekness, that he might not differ in any point from the old law, so well known to the persons he was addressing. David, in psalm xxxvi, had made the same promise to the meek. If temporal blessings are promised to some of the virtues in the beatitudes, it is that temporal blessings might always accompany the more solid rewards of grace. But spiritual rewards are always the principal, always ranked in the first place, all who practice these virtues are pronounced blessed. (Hom. xv.)
Jesus makes a statement (v. 4) that His audience is familiar with. It is a good idea for us to be familiar with the text the devout in His audience probably heard frequently in the Temple and was surely well known by the experts of the day:
An Exhortation To Despise This World; And The Short Prosperity Of The Wicked; And To Trust In Providence
A psalm for David himself. Be not emulous of evildoers; nor envy them that work iniquity. For they shall shortly wither away as grass, and as the green herbs shall quickly fall. Trust in the Lord, and do good, and dwell in the land, and thou shalt be fed with its riches. Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart. Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it. And he will bring forth thy justice as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day. Be subject to the Lord, and pray to him. Envy not the man who prospereth in his way; the man who doth unjust things. Cease from anger, and leave rage; have no emulation to do evil. For the evil doers shall be cut off: but they that wait upon the Lord, shall inherit the land. For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be: and thou shalt seek his place, and shalt not find it.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land, and shall delight in abundance of peace. The sinner shall watch the just man: and shall gnash upon him with his teeth. But the Lord shall laugh at him: for he foreseeth that his day shall come. The wicked have drawn out the sword: they have bent their bow; To cast down the poor and needy, to kill the upright of heart. Let their sword enter into their own hearts, and let their bow be broken. Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken in pieces; but the Lord strengtheneth the just. The Lord knoweth the days of undefiled; and their inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be confounded in the evil time; and in the days of famine they shall be filled: because the wicked shall perish. And the enemies of the Lord, presently after they shall be honoured and exalted, shall come to nothing, and vanish like smoke. The sinner shall borrow, and not pay again: but the just sheweth mercy and shall give. For such as bless him shall inherit the land: but such as curse him shall perish. With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed, and he shall like well his way. When he shall fall, he shall not be bruised, for the Lord putteth his hand under him. I have been young, and now am old; and I have not seen the just forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread. He sheweth mercy, and lendeth all the day long; and his seed shall be in blessing. Decline from evil, and do good; and dwell for ever and ever. For the Lord loveth judgment, and will not forsake his saints: they shall be preserved for ever. The unjust shall be punished, and the seed of the wicked shall perish. But the just shall inherit the land, and shall dwell therein for evermore. The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom; and his tongue shall speak judgment. The law of his God is in his heart, and his steps shall not be supplanted. The wicked watcheth the just man, and seeketh to put him to death. But the Lord will not leave him in his hands; nor condemn him when he shall be judged. Expect the Lord and keep his way: and he will exalt thee to inherit the land: when the sinners shall perish thou shalt see. I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus. And I passed by, and lo! he was not: and I sought him, and his place was not found. Keep innocence, and behold justice; for there are remnants for the peaceable man. But the unjust shall be destroyed together: the remnants of the wicked shall perish. But the salvation of the just is from the Lord, and he is their protector in the time of trouble. And the Lord will help them, and deliver them: and he will rescue them from the wicked; and save them, because they have hoped in him. (Psalm 36)
We see that the Old Covenant also, though less frequently than the New Testament, points to eternal blessings instead of just the temporal. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, which is not always good because I am constantly set up for disappointment, but being a perfectionist, I need to find out what the word "meek" means before I start trying to be meek:
Consequently meekness, in so far as it restrains the onslaught of anger, concurs with clemency towards the same effect; yet they differ from one another, inasmuch as clemency moderates external punishment, while meekness properly mitigates the passion of anger. (St. Thomas Aquinas)
I had no idea what meekness meant. I thought it was another word for humility. Here we see the necessity of restraining the onslaught of anger. It would seem a meek person stays peaceable during trying situations, as Jesus did during the entirety of His Passion. Should we go to another orthodox source to get the meaning of this beatitude?
Inasmuch as poverty is a state of humble subjection, the "poor in spirit", come near to the "meek", the subject of the second blessing. The anawim, they who humbly and meekly bend themselves down before God and man, shall "inherit the land" and possess their inheritance in peace. This is a phrase taken from Psalm 36:11, where it refers to the Promised Land of Israel, but here in the words of Christ, it is of course but a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven, the spiritual realm of the Messiah. Not a few interpreters, however, understand "the earth". But they overlook the original meaning of Psalm 36:11, and unless, by a far-fetched expedient, they take the earth also to be a symbol of the Messianic kingdom, it will be hard to explain the possession of the earth in a satisfactory way. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Those who seek understanding will not let a verse stand on an island; but rather, will take in context by reading the chapter that surrounds it and by going back to the scripture it is referring to, in this case, Psalm 36. This, in addition to seeing where our Lord is coming from when He makes the statement, can help solve many apparent contradictions in Holy Writ.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Ver. 5. Not those that mourn for worldly motives, but such as mourn for their sins, are blessed. The sorrow that is according to God, says St. Paul, worketh penance steadfast unto salvation, but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians vii. 10.) The same is promised in St. John; (xvi. 20,) you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (Menochius)
The Office Of Christ: The Mission Of The Apostles: The Happiness Of Their Converts.
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up.
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all that mourn: To appoint to the mourners of Sion, and to give them a crown for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of grief: and they shall be called in it the mighty ones of justice, the planting of the Lord to glorify him. And they shall build the places that have been waste from of old, and shall raise up ancient ruins, and shall repair the desolate cities, that were destroyed for generation and generation. And strangers shall stand and shall feed your flocks: and the sons of strangers shall be your husbandmen, and the dressers of your vines. But you shall be called the priests of the Lord: to you it shall be said: Ye ministers of our God: you shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and you shall pride yourselves in their glory. For your double confusion and shame, they shall praise their part: therefore shall they receive double in their land, everlasting joy shall be unto them. For I am the Lord that love judgment, and hate robbery in a holocaust: and I will make their work in truth, and I will make a perpetual covenant with them. And they shall know their seed among the Gentiles, and their offspring in the midst of peoples: all that shall see them, shall know them, that these are the seed which the Lord hath blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation: and with the robe of justice he hath covered me, as a bridegroom decked with a crown, and as a bride adorned with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth her seed to shoot forth: so shall the Lord God make justice to spring forth, and praise before all the nations. (Isaias 60)
The "mourning" in the Third Beatitude is in Luke (6:25) opposed to laughter and similar frivolous worldly joy. Motives of mourning are not to be drawn from the miseries of a life of poverty, abjection, and subjection, which are the very blessings of verse 3, but rather from those miseries from which the pious man is suffering in himself and in others, and most of all the tremendous might of evil throughout the world. To such mourners the Lord Jesus carries the comfort of the heavenly kingdom, "the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25) foretold by the prophets, and especially by the Book of Consolation of Isaias (11-16). Even the later Jews knew the Messiah by the name of Menahhem, Consoler. These three blessings, poverty, abjection, and subjection are a commendation of what nowadays are called the passive virtues: abstinence and endurance, and the Eighth Beatitude (verse 10) leads us back again to the teaching. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
From following [considering whether the beatitudes differ from the virtues and gifts - JG] the concupiscible passions, man is withdrawn-by a virtue, so that man uses these passions in moderation-and by a gift, so that, if necessary, he casts them aside altogether; nay more, so that, if need be, he makes a deliberate choice of sorrow; hence the third beatitude is: Blessed are they that mourn. (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
Next, I shall cover verses six through ten in concentrating on the Beatitudes.
"Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH" Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373
John Gregory's FAITHFUL TO TRADITION Monday, October 10, 2011,
Volume 22, no. 283