vol 22, no. 287
In continuing to cover the Beatitudes, we can see St. Thomas Aquinas' explanation clarifies that the Beatitudes are guideposts, but they are not virtues or gifts as some are wont to consider them. That is why it is important to cite the orthodox sources and find the one which holy Mother Church counsels is the best in discerning the Sacred Scriptures. The Beatitudes serve as a blueprint for all to follow as Christ expressed in imparting these keys to gaining virtue and gifts of the Holy Ghost to those assembled on the mount where He spoke. In our time, the Beatitudes take on a significant meaning for if people refuse to obey the Commandments they will persecute the more. Blessed, indeed, are the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for their reward will be found not in this material world, but in Heaven.
Continuing where I left off in part one with the verse five, today I resume with verse six of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Chapter Five which deals with the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus Christ giving mankind the Beatitudes.
6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall be filled.
Ver. 6. Hunger and thirst; i.e. spiritually, with an earnest desire of being just and holy. But others again understand such as endure with patience the hardships of hunger and thirst. (Witham) --- Rupertus understands those to whom justice is denied, such as poor widows and orphans. Maldonatus those who from poverty really suffer hunger and thirst, because justice is not done them. (Menochius) --- They shall be filled with every kind of good in their heavenly country. I shall be filled when thy glory shall appear.
A Just Man's Prayer In Tribulation, Against The Malice Of His Enemies
The prayer of David. Hear, O Lord, my justice: attend to my supplication. Give ear unto my prayer, which proceedeth not from deceitful lips. Let my judgment come forth from thy countenance: let thy eyes behold the things that are equitable. Thou hast proved my heart, and visited it by night, thou hast tried me by fire: and iniquity hath not been found in me. That my mouth may not speak the works of men: for the sake of the words of thy lips, I have kept hard ways. Perfect thou my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps be not moved. I have cried to thee, for thou, O God, hast heard me: O incline thy ear unto me, and hear my words. Shew forth thy wonderful mercies; thou who savest them that trust in thee. From them that resist thy right hand keep me, as the apple of thy eye. Protect me under the shadow of thy wings. From the face of the wicked who have afflicted me. My enemies have surrounded my soul: they have shut up their fat: their mouth hath spoken proudly. They have cast me forth, and now they have surrounded me: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth. They have taken me, as a lion prepared for the prey; and as a young lion dwelling in secret places. Arise, O Lord, disappoint him and supplant him; deliver my soul from the wicked one; thy sword from the enemies of thy hand. O Lord, divide them from the few of the earth in their life: their belly is filled from thy hidden stores. They are full of children: and they have left to their little ones the rest of their substance. But as for me, I will appear before thy sight in justice: I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear. (Psalm 26)
The others [beatitudes - JG] however, demand a more active behavior. First of all, "hunger and thirst" after justice: a strong and continuous desire of progress in religious and moral perfection, the reward of which will be the very fulfilment of the desire, the continuous growth in holiness. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Active life consists chiefly in man's relations with his neighbor, either by way of duty or by way of spontaneous gratuity [gift - JG]. To the former we are disposed-by a virtue, so that we do not refuse to do our duty to our neighbor, which pertains to justice-and by a gift, so that we do the same much more heartily, by accomplishing works of justice with an ardent [devoted, eager - JG] desire, even as a hungry and thirsty man eats and drinks with eager appetite. Hence the fourth beatitude is: Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice. (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
So to hunger and thirst after justice is not only to oppose oppression or any injustice against our neighbor (any human being), but to strongly or ardently desire it. Ultimate justice for many is Hell. We must neither desire anyone go to Hell nor be opposed to God's Justice which allows souls to go there. Accepting the fact that God consigns some to Hell, for just reasons, is not the same as hating the people on earth who seem evil. So, in a sense, we can be glad that people, ultimately do not "get away with" atrocious crimes, or any mortal sin, whether they be against the body or soul, unless they die repentant. Even the repentant do not "get away" with anything, for they are punished or rewarded for all their thoughts, words and actions in this and or the next life. Sharing Eternal bliss with those who worked against the salvation of others would not be Eternal bliss. When we are dismayed by the actions of others, keeping in mind that they are probably not as bad as we think they are, we need not despair of their being no hope for justice. The world often times does not supply justice, but there is Ultimate Justice. This is something that God ordains from all eternity on all rational souls, be it in this life, Purgatory or Hell. If people that committed mortal sins and died unrepentantly had nothing to fear, then motivation to be good would be lacking. Things are bad enough with people aware of the possibility of eternal damnation. Think of how things would be in this world, if no one had any fear at all of Eternal Punishment. Our justice system cannot take the place of God. The Martyrs in Heaven cry out to the Lord, "How long, O Lord, (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Apocalypse 6: 10)
Who They Are That Shall Ascend To Heaven: Christ's Triumphant Ascension Thither.
They ask not this out of hatred to their enemies, but out of zeal for the glory of God, and a desire that the Lord would accelerate the general judgment, and the complete beatitude of all his elect. (Challoner) --- These holy souls, who had been slain for the word of God, do not beg the Almighty to revenge their blood, through any hatred to their enemies, but through the great zeal with which they were animated, to see the justice of God manifested: that by this severity they might be moved to fear him, and be converted to him. Thus in the Scripture we often read of the prophets beseeching the Almighty to fill their enemies with confusion, to humble them, &c. (Perer; Bossuet; Du Pin, &c.)
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Ver. 7. Not only the giving of alms, but the practice of all works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, are recommended here, and the reward will be given on that day when God will repay every one according to his works, and will do by us, as we have done by our brethren. (Haydock)
From this interior desire a further step should be taken to acting to the works of "mercy", corporal and spiritual. Through these the merciful will obtain the Divine mercy of the Messianic kingdom, in this life and in the final judgment. The wonderful fertility of the Church in works and institutions of corporal and spiritual mercy of every kind shows the prophetical sense, not to say the creative power, of this simple word of the Divine Teacher. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
With regard to spontaneous favors we are perfected-by a virtue, so that we give where reason dictates we should give, e.g., to our friends or others united to us; which pertains to the virtue of liberality-and by a gift, so that, through reverence for God, we consider only the needs of those on whom we bestow our gratuitous bounty: hence it is written (Luke xiv. 12, 13): When thou makest a dinner or supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, etc…but…call the poor, the maimed, etc.; which, properly, is to have mercy: hence the fifth beatitude is: Blessed are the merciful. (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
If we are merciful we will obtain mercy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, because God does unto us as we do unto others. If we forgive others He forgives us. If we are generous to others He is generous to us. But He multiplies our generosity "one-hundred fold" or infinitely. The negative of this is that Hell is eternal, and if we do not forgive others, or are not merciful to others, God will not forgive us, or be merciful to us.
8 Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Ver. 8. The clean of heart are either those who give themselves to the practice of every virtue, and are conscious to themselves of no evil, or those who are adorned with the virtue of chastity. For nothing is so necessary as this purity in such as desire to see God. Keep peace with all and chastity, says St. Paul, for without this none can see God. Many are merciful to the poor and just in their dealings, but abstain not from luxury and lust. Therefore our Savior, wishing to shew that mercy was not sufficient, adds, that if we would see God, we must also be possessed of the virtue of purity. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xv.) By this, we shall have our heart exempt from all disordinate love of creatures, and shall be exclusively attached to God. (Haydock) --- The clean of heart, i.e. they who are clean from sin: who are pure in body and mind, says St. Chrysostom. It seems to be a particular admonition to the Jews, who were mostly solicitous about an outward and legal cleanness. (Witham) (Emphasis JG)
It sometimes appears to me that the writers of the Catholic Encyclopedia look at the Haydock commentary and then try to disagree with it (to show how enlightened they are?). While the below is not necessarily wrong or contrary to the truth, I will go with Saint John Chrysostom in the Haydock commentary above:
According to biblical terminology, "cleanness of heart" (verse 8) cannot exclusively be found in interior chastity, nor even, as many scholars propose, in a general purity of conscience, as opposed to the Levitical, or legal, purity required by the Scribes and Pharisees. At least the proper place of such a blessing does not seem to be between mercy (verse 7) and peacemaking (verse 9), nor after the apparently more far-reaching virtue of hunger and thirst after justice. But frequently in the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 20:5; Job 33:3, Psalms 23:4 (24:4) and 72:1 (73:1); 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22) the "pure heart" is the simple and sincere good intention, the "single eye" of Matthew 6:22, and thus opposed to the unavowed by-ends of the Pharisees (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18; 7:15; 23:5-7, 14) This "single eye" or "pure heart" is most of all required in the works of mercy (verse 7) and zeal (verse 9) in behalf of one's neighbor. And it stands to reason that the blessing, promised to this continuous looking for God's glory, should consist of the supernatural "seeing" of God Himself, the last aim and end of the heavenly kingdom in its completion. (Catholic Encyclopedia - emphasis JG)
Does Saint Thomas, in his commentary below, seem to agree more with the Haydock commentary or with the Catholic Encyclopedia? Does he reconcile the two? Perhaps the most common passion that can hold us down is that which tends towards procreation, but there are other things we can be attached to, that keep us from being pure of heart. I have stated the obvious here, but what might not be so obvious would be that perhaps the Haydock commentary focuses on the primary obstacle, whereas the Catholic Encyclopedia focuses on all the obstacles in general:
Those things which concern the contemplative life, are either final beatitude itself, or some beginning thereof: wherefore they are included in the beatitudes, not as merits, but as rewards. Yet the effects of the active life, which dispose man for the contemplative life, are included in the beatitudes. Now the effect of the active life, as regards those virtues and gifts whereby man is perfected in himself, is the cleansing of man's heart, so that it is not defiled by the passions: hence the sixth beatitude is: Blessed are the clean of heart. (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
On the first day of the week, a psalm for David. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the world, and all they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas; and hath prepared it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who hath not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God, his Saviour. This is the generation of them that seek him, of them that seek the face of the God of Jacob. Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in. Who is this King of Glory? the Lord, who is strong and mighty: the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in. Who is this King of Glory? the Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory. (Psalm 23)
I find the above Psalm interesting in that it speaks of those who shall ascend to Heaven; "the clean of heart". It is important to stress that we cannot merit when we are not in the state of grace. All of the beatitudes are linked together but we are not fulfilling them at all when we are in a state of mortal sin. We have none of the theological or moral virtues active in us when in a state of mortal sin. Nor are the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost active in us when in this state. When in the state of mortal sin, we are at enmity with God, and all our apparent, natural good works are like a swinging bell that does not ring.
9 Blesses are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Ver. 9. To be peaceful ourselves and with others, and to bring such as are at variance together, will entitle us to be children of God. Thus we shall be raised to a participation in the honour of the only begotten Son of God, who descended from heaven to bring peace to man, and to reconcile him with his offended Creator. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xv.)
The "peacemakers" (verse 9) are those who not only live in peace with others but moreover do their best to preserve peace and friendship among mankind and between God and man, and to restore it when it has been disturbed. It is on account of this godly work, "an imitating of God's love of man" as St. Gregory of Nyssa styles it, that they shall be called the sons of God, "children of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:45). (Catholic Encyclopedia)
But as regards the virtues and gifts whereby man is perfected in relation to his neighbor, the effect of the active life is peace, according to Isaias xxxii. 17: The work of justice shall be peace: hence the seventh beatitude is Blessed are the peacemakers. (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
An example of one who tries to be a peacemaker would be one who puts his neck on the line so that souls will not be scandalized and perhaps lost as a result of some scandalous word or action of a Priest or Bishop for instance. A peacemaker will, publicly defend, for a just cause, one who is, publicly attacked, unjustly. The one who hopes to obtain peace, by acting for the sake of justice, with pure motives, is successful only when the one rebuked, has the humility to look at himself, and amend his ways, rather than condemning others, who have done no wrong. So to, it could be said, that God is unsuccessful in bringing souls to Heaven, though through no fault of His own, because of our unwillingness to heed His call. Pride is at the root of much of our failings.
10 Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
We can see how the beatitudes are connected. Those who try to make peace are often persecuted. Have you ever felt punished for doing something good? This is a good thing. Everything is good, no matter how bad, for the true Catholic. God is refining us like gold in a fire. Doing good, gives us an opportunity to merit and to make reparation for our countless sins, the doing of good allows this to happen, but the evil we suffer as a result of doing good, is a much more valuable treasure.
Ver. 10. Heretics and malefactors suffer occasionally, but they are not on this account blessed, because they suffer not for justice. For, says St. Augustine they cannot suffer for justice, who have divided the Church; and where sound faith or charity is wanting, there cannot be justice. (Cont. epis. Parm. lib. i. chap. 9. ep. 50. ps. 4. conc. 2.) (Bristow) --- By justice here we understand virtue, piety, and the defence of our neighbor. To all who suffer on this account, he promises a seat in his heavenly kingdom. We must not think that suffering persecution only, will suffice to entitle us to the greatest promises. The persecutions we suffer must be inflicted on us on his account, and the evils spoken of us must be false and contradicted by our lives. If these are not the causes of our sufferings, so far from being happy, we shall be truly miserable, because then our irregular lives would be the occasion of the persecutions we suffer. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xv.)
GENERAL COMMENTARY BY AQUINAS
When after all this the pious disciples of Christ are repaid with ingratitude and even "persecution" (verse 10) it will be but a new blessing, "for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."
So, by an inclusion, not uncommon in biblical poetry, the last blessing goes back to the first and the second. The pious, whose sentiments and desires whose works and sufferings are held up before us, shall be blessed and happy by their share in the Messianic kingdom, here and hereafter. And viewed in the intermediate verses seem to express, in partial images of the one endless beatitude, the same possession of the Messianic salvation. The eight conditions required constitute the fundamental law of the kingdom, the very pith (center - JG) and marrow (core or essence - JG) of Christian perfection. For its depth and breadth of thought, and its practical bearing on Christian life, the passage may be put on a level with the Decalogue in the Old, and the Lord's Prayer in the New Testament, and it surpassed both in its poetical beauty of structure. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
ON WHETHER THE BEATITUDES DIFFER FROM VIRTUES OR GIFTS
For what glory is it, if sinning and being buffeted you suffer it: But if doing well you suffer patiently; this is praiseworthy before God. (1 Peter 2: 20)
On the contrary, Certain things are included among the beatitudes, that are neither virtues nor gifts, e.g., poverty, mourning, and peace. Therefore the beatitudes differ from the virtues and gifts.
I answer that, As stated above (Q. 2, A. 7; Q. 3, A. 1), happiness is the last end of human life. Now one is said to possess the end already, when one hopes to possess it; wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. i. 9) that children are said to be happy because they are full of hope; and the Apostle says (Rom. viii. 24): We are saved by hope. Again, we hope to obtain an end, because we are suitably moved towards that end, and approach thereto; and this implies some action. And a man is moved towards, and approaches the happy end by works of virtue, and above all by the works of the gifts, if we speak of eternal happiness, for which our reason is not sufficient, since we need to be moved by the Holy Ghost, and to be perfected with His gifts that we may obey and follow him. Consequently the beatitudes differ from the virtues and gifts, not as habit, but as act from habit.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i. 4): These promises can be fulfilled in this life, as we believe them to have been fulfilled in the apostles. For no words can express that complete change into the likeness even of an angel, which is promised to us after this life.
I answer that, Expounders of Holy Writ are not agreed in speaking of these rewards. For some, with Ambrose (Super Luc. v.), hold that all these rewards refer to the life to come; while Augustine (loc. cit.) holds them to refer to the present life; and Chrysostom in his homilies (In Matth. xv) says that some refer to the future, and some to the present life.
In order to make the matter clear we must take note that hope of future happiness may be in us for two reasons. First, by reason of our having a preparation for, or a disposition to future happiness; and this is by way of merit; secondly, by a kind of imperfect inchoation (just beginning to develop/imperfectly formed/chaotic - JG) of future happiness in holy men, even in this life. For it is one thing to hope that the tree will bear fruit, when the leaves begin to appear, and another, when we see the first signs of the fruit.
Accordingly, those things which are set down as merits in the beatitudes, are a kind of preparation for, or disposition to happiness, either perfect or inchoate: while those that are assigned as rewards, may be either perfect happiness, so as to refer to the future life, or some beginning of happiness, such as is found in those who have attained perfection, in which case they refer to the present life. Because when a man begins to make progress in the acts of the virtues and gifts, it is to be hoped that he will arrive at perfection, both as a wayfarer, and as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom.
I answer that, These beatitudes are most suitably enumerated. To make this evident it must be observed that beatitude has been held to consist in one of three things: for some have ascribed it to a sensual life, some, to an active life, and some, to a contemplative life. Now these three kinds of happiness stand in different relations to future beatitude, by hoping for which we are said to be happy. Because sensual happiness, being false and contrary to reason, is an obstacle to future beatitude; while happiness of the active life is a disposition of future beatitude; and contemplative happiness, if perfect, is the very essence of future beatitude, and, if imperfect, is a beginning thereof.
On the contrary, stands the authority of Our Lord Who propounded these rewards.
I answer that, These rewards are most suitably assigned, considering the nature of the beatitudes in relation to the three kinds of happiness indicated above (A. 3). For the first three beatitudes concerned the withdrawal of man from those things in which sensual happiness consists: which happiness man desires by seeking the object of his natural desire, not where he should seek it, viz., in God, but in temporal and perishable things. Wherefore the rewards of the first three beatitudes correspond to these things which some men seek to find in earthly happiness. For men seek in external things, viz., riches and honors, a certain excellence and abundance, both of which are implied in the kingdom of heaven, whereby man attains to excellence and abundance of good things in God. Hence Our Lord promised the kingdom of Heaven to the poor in spirit. Again, cruel and pitiless men seek by wrangling and fighting to destroy their enemies so as to gain security for themselves. Hence Our Lord promised the meek a secure and peaceful possession of the land of the living, whereby the solid reality of eternal goods is denoted. Again, men seek consolation for the toils of the present life, in the lusts and pleasures of the world. Hence Our Lord promises comfort to those that mourn.
Two other beatitudes belong to the works of active happiness, which are the works of virtues directing man in his relations to his neighbor: from which operations some men withdraw through inordinate love of their own good. Hence Our Lord assigns to these beatitudes rewards in correspondence with the motives for which men recede from them. For there are some who recede from acts of justice, and instead of rendering what is due, lay hands on what is not theirs, that they may abound in temporal goods. Wherefore Our Lord promised those who hunger after justice, that they shall have their fill. Some, again, recede from works of mercy, lest they be busied with other people's misery. Hence Our Lord promised the merciful that they should obtain mercy, and be delivered from all misery.
The last two beatitudes belong to contemplative happiness or beatitude: hence the rewards are assigned in correspondence with the dispositions included in the merit. For cleanness of the eye disposes one to see clearly: hence the clean of heart are promised that they shall see God.-Again, to make peace either in oneself or among others, shows a man to be a follower of God, Who is the God of unity and peace. Hence, as a reward, he is promised the glory of the Divine sonship, consisting in perfect union with God through consummate wisdom.
But if also you suffer any thing for justice sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their terror, and be not troubled. (1 Peter 3: 14)
If you be reproached for the name of Christ, you shall be happy: for that which is of the honour, glory, and power of God, and that which is his spirit, resteth upon you. (1 Peter 4: 14)
"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 Friday, October 14, 2011,
Volume 22, no. 287