One book that I often read during high school, that I still love reading today, was The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis. It is a book that is way beyond the reading level of your average 15-year-old girl. However, I was in a time when I was completely lost and the words of this Catholic monk were like a lighthouse in the middle of the foggy period of my adolescence. The first chapter of The Imitation of Christ opens with this verse from the Gospel of John:
“Anyone who follows me shall not walk in darkness.” John 8:12
How exactly can we live as children of light as it says in today’s passage? The Imitation of Christ suggests this:
“Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”
What is good and pleasing to the Lord? The Beatitudes, as shown in the Gospel of Matthew, give us a good starting point, but it’s a little bit hard to understand some of them.
I personally find “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” especially challenging. However, the Catholicism series by Bishop Robert Barron gave me some clarity about this particular verse. Being pure of heart means having no ambiguity about what is most important, and centering your love towards pleasing God alone and above all things. I may have a ton of obsessions and passions, but if I want to have a pure heart, I have to remember that none of these things can ever compare to God.
You might wonder what it means to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” According to Bishop Robert Barron, it means making the desire to do God’s will your number one priority. And what about being a peacemaker? How can we do that in a world where debates on social media and around the watercooler have become part of the norm? We can start by recognizing that we are all connected to each other and that behind that negative comment is an actual person with thoughts and feelings. Make an effort to draw people together instead of trying to tear down a co-worker or a friend.
The other four Beatitudes are countermeasures for the four most common addictions in this world (according to St. Thomas Aquinas): wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. While these four things are not bad in and of themselves, to try and center our lives on one of these four things only leads to an empty life.
By being “poor in spirit,” we can remind ourselves that God is more important than how much money we have in the bank, or if our house can look as good as the pictures we see on Pinterest. People who are mourning are blessed because we all know how fleeting the happiness we derive from earthly pleasures can be. Doing the will of God may not always make us feel good, but this particular Beatitude reminds us that even when we feel bad,we can find consolation in knowing that we are doing God’s will. Being meek doesn’t mean denying yourself the credit that is due, but instead reminds us not to grasp for power or chase selfish ambition. Finally, the Beatitude that blesses “those who are persecuted for righteousness sake” reminds us of another aspect to the virtue of humility: to deny yourself of the desire to seek the approval of others. Not everyone will understand, or even like us when we live a Christ-filled life. But this Beatitude, along with all the others, reminds us that the opinions of others don’t matter when compared to the rewards we gain for doing God’s will.
My prayer for you, my dearest sisters in Christ, is that you will shine the light of God’s love from your heart into the world. I hope the Beatitudes will give you a good place to start.
Which Beatitude do you have the hardest one understanding? Why?
- How do you think you can bring the light of Christ to others?