The Beatitudes, like the Ten Commandments, are boundaries that define us as the children and inheritors of God’s will and blessing. We have been created to be disciplined, so to strive for freedom of excellence. Those who are disciplined to practice and train for hours have the freedom, are blessed, to play the violin, guitar, or a French horn. I still possess the same guitar my father gave me when I was seven. I can pick it up and play some notes, but because of my lack of discipline in practicing daily, I do not have the freedom nor am I able to experience the joy my father does when he plays his guitar.
This holds true for any endeavor in the arts, sports, business, family, or our spiritual life. We become truly happy and we are blessed by God when we actualize and develop the gifts he has given us through our practice and discipline. Over time, with continued collaboration with God, we will experience the freedom to put these gifts into action.
The Beatitudes that Jesus presents to us today as recorded by Matthew in his Gospel offer us opportunities to experience meaning, fulfillment, and joy. Each of them is worthy of a reflection in their own right, but for today, let us look at the fourth Beatitude which is appropriate in our present climate.
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” The righteousness Jesus is referring to here is the justice of God. In the fullness of time, God will make all things right. We will most likely not see the full measure of justice for all people in our lifetime this side of heaven. Yet, with so much injustice all around us, we are not to just put our heads in the sand and do nothing. We are to follow the hunger and thirst God stirs up within us to discipline ourselves and work for justice, which is to give everyone their due.
We need to ask ourselves which right to life issues do we rationalize and which bring us to tears and move our hearts with compassion? Whose cry do we hear and who do we weep for: the unborn whose life ends before they are born; unarmed African Americans and people of color killed by police officers; the increasing epidemic of missing and murdered Native American and Alaskan women; the 215 indigenous children recently found buried at a Catholic mission school in BC; people fleeing war and violence denied entry into our country or worse separated from their families; Asians and Pacific Islanders being physically abused and killed; those who die each day from gun violence; the exponential number of our youth dying from addiction; the vast number of people who die because of lack of access to adequate health care…?
What is the most horrific of the above mentioned, as well as the many more that I didn’t, is that life issues have become politicized. Each one is a human dignity issue. To attempt to rationalize or justify any one issue weakens a consistent ethic of the dignity of all life. We begin to bring about change by becoming aware, educating ourselves, coming to understand the plight of, and building relationships with those whose cries we hear but even more importantly those we do not.
Being willing to enter into dialogue with someone who has a different or opposing, point of view is an important first step. Prayer is also not only necessary but imperative to bring about systemic change because through authentic prayer our hearts and minds are transformed from our biases and prejudices such that we are moved by the love of the Holy Spirit to treat each person with the respect they deserve. Love demands that we do not remain silent nor support justice for a select few, but speak and act on behalf of the human dignity for all.
Photo: Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel of the Lower Brule Sioux runs many races including the 2019 Boston Marathon to bring awareness to the issue of MMIW – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She wears the red hand symbol of the movement which stands for, “We will not be silenced.” (photo – Devin Whetsone)