The Kingdom of Heaven is not in the carnal
pleasures of this world. In the proper ordering of
my passions, may I find fulfillment in charity
and divine beatitude (CCC 1769).
We are made in the image and likeness of an infinite God. From our finite perspectives, can we fathom the depths of a soul? What are the limits of spirit? In our finite nature, can we grasp the expanse of infinity itself? No. However, we can feel universal longings within us for peace without end. Until our souls find their peace in God, we are restless. This restlessness is a gift that urges us to find the only one who can truly satisfy… God Himself.
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You (St Augustine of Hippo).
When we indulge ourselves in the pleasures of this world, it only kindles a fire for more indulgence. We have an unlimited capacity to want. There is an unfillable hole within us we try to fill with the finite offerings of the world. In our yearnings, we get addicted. Our addiction knows no bounds. When we have little, we want a little more. When we have much, we want much more. Can there be a limit or will we always seek more to acquire and more worlds to conquer?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matt 6:19-21).
This unfillable cavern within ourselves was given to us to welcome the infinite—God Himself. Our insatiable nature requires an infinite source to satisfy. Until we turn to Him as our greatest good, we wander aimlessly in search of those things that can never hope to satisfy us. He gave us the capacity to take great pleasure in the basic necessities of life—food, drink, recreation, procreation, et al. However, if these necessities are indulged beyond their requirement, we find ourselves seeking more and richer experiences. We desire them not just for their necessity but for the pleasure they give. We enslave ourselves to our passions. There may be physical limits to our passions as we can only ingest so much of the world on our own. However, there is a rapaciousness to our souls that seeks more.
Our Lord is love personified. In His love for us, He desires our happiness. As our creator, He knows what we need. We were made for communion with Him. In Him is our happiness. Yet we resist His entreaties. In rebellion, we cast about for something—anything—that can make us happy apart from Him. It doesn’t exist. As accounting for the animals in the Garden of Eden demonstrated the original solitude of Adam so does our emptiness show us the folly of fulfillment in anything but infinity Himself.
The Israelites came under the Law as reproof for their stubbonness. We weren’t made for the Law. We are given the Spirit to know the will of God and realize the life He wants for us.
The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory (CCC 1832).
… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Gal 5:22-23).
Jesus taught us the way of happiness in the Beatitudes. In them is a picture of God’s people in our fullest realization. Through them, we can see the fruit of the Spirit He offers.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3).
Being poor in spirit is to be humble. It is self-mastery in self-control and modesty. We should give God and neighbor the reverence they deserve… and treat human bodies as the temples God made them to be. Modesty is an antonym to pride. It implies humility and service. It is obedience to the will of God.
“Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted” (Matt 5:4).
We find much to mourn in our world—violence, hatred and injustice. We find much to mourn in our relationships with each other—unkindness, neglect, and disloyalty. We need patience to wait for God’s justice. Patience can be understood as hopeful waiting. It also comes from an understanding of our own imperfect state and how God has given us His unconditional love and mercy. As God is patient with our faults and failings, we share the same patience for the faults of others.
“Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land” (Matt 5:5).
In our meekness, we are gentle. Far from weakness, gentleness requires strength. A weak person may require a great deal of effort to be forceful while a strong person uses only a fraction of his strength. A light touch from one who is powerful is gentleness. We should walk gently in this world following the meekness of Christ who bruised not a reed yet is the embodiment of power, strength, and majesty.
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied” (Matt 5:6).
Our joy is a passion for the will of God. The joy that comes from the Spirit is more than an emotional state. It is a lasting happiness that can only be realized when we put God at the center of our lives in the belief that we will live our eternal life with Him. We seek righteousness in Him and union with Him. In seeking, we will find Him and know Him.
“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy” (Matt 5:7).
Kindness is a mercy. Mercy begets mercy. Kindness is more than simply “being kind” to others. It is having a heart that is willing to do acts of compassion and give to others above and beyond what we owe to them. We owe to others forgiveness for the wrongs committed against us.
“Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God” (Matt 5:8).
In faithfulness, we find no hatred or jealousy. Faith is the core of Christianity. Faithfulness means living according to the will of God and believing that He is the master of life. If we love Jesus, we will keep His word, and then He and the Father will make their dwelling with us (John 14:23).
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9).
We should seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters. Peace relieves us from anxious thoughts about revenge or the future. In complete trust and reliance on God, we have a tranquility that comes from believing that He will provide for us and defend us—now and forever.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10).
Generosity is giving more than just physical resources. We, as people of God, are required to go beyond our own needs for the needs of the Church and others. This generosity often takes the form of time, talent, and treasure. It is fully realized in the martyrs who hold nothing back in service to Christ and His Kingdom. It is giving oneself in oblation… an oblation of love.
There is no reason to stress and strive for the wealth and fame of the world while Heaven beckons. We should do our duty for God and men, and strive only for the Kingdom. Indeed, in the beatitudes, Jesus offers us a self-portrait and bids us to emulate Him. Alternatively, the enemy offers us illusions of grandeur through self-importance, self-indulgence, rebellion, and ruin.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matt 6:25-33).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers beautiful teaching on the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven… (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; they shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations; they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples; they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints (CCC 1717).
The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it… (CCC 1718).
The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith (CCC 1719).
God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us “partakers of the divine nature” and of eternal life [2 Pet 1:4; cf. Jn 17:3]. With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ [Cf. Rom 8:18] and into the joy of the Trinitarian life (CCC 1721).
Such beatitude surpasses the understanding and powers of man. It comes from an entirely free gift of God: whence it is called supernatural, as is the grace that disposes man to enter into the divine joy (CCC 1722).
The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be – such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love:
All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability. . . . It is a homage resulting from a profound faith . . . that with wealth he may do all things. Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second. . . . Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world – it may be called “newspaper fame” – has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration [John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Saintliness the Standard of Christian Principle,” in Discourses to Mixed Congregations (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1906) V, 89-90] (CCC 1723).
The Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount, and the apostolic catechesis describe for us the paths that lead to the Kingdom of heaven. Sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we tread them, step by step, by everyday acts. By the working of the Word of Christ, we slowly bear fruit in the Church to the glory of God [Cf. the parable of the sower: Mt 13:3-23] (CCC 1724).
May we orient our hearts and minds on divine beatitude… to realize the joy of Heaven in our daily living. Through the Spirit, we can find the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control our souls need and be filled with the goodness of God. We will finally find the rest we crave when our hearts rest in Him.