28 January 2023

Homily on the beatitude of beggging for love

The Fourth Sunday of the Year (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

If we consider carefully the Beatitudes Jesus declares today, if we take his pronouncements of blessedness to heart, we begin to realize he speaks of his own characteristics.  

He who has no place to lay his head (cf. Matthew 8:20) is truly poor; he who can say, ‘Come to me … for I am meek and lowly in heart’ (cf. Matthew 11:28-29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God. He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God’s sake. The Beatitudes display the mystery of Christ himself, and they call us into communion with him.[1]

The Beatitudes “mirror the life of the Son of God who let himself even be persecuted and despised until he was condemned to death so that salvation might be given to men and women.”[2] Through the Beatitudes, Jesus presents “a new program of life” through which his disciples are “to free [themselves] from the false values of the world and to open [themselves] to the true goods, present and future.”[3]

Detail, Albrecht Druer, Ecce homo ("Behold, the man"), Ms 39-1601

This is why the Apostle Paul says to us, “Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters”, reminding us “it is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:26, 30). If, then, we are in Christ Jesus by virtue of our baptisms, if we seek to follow him and receive his rewards, we must become like him, each in the manner of life to which the Lord calls us.

When we look at the Beatitudes through the prism of Christ, we begin to see with clarity that what Saint Paul says is true, namely, that

God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God (I Corinthians 1:27-29).

The wisdom of Christ is the Cross, which even today is still seen as great foolishness. Few today accept the wisdom of the Cross and so do not realize that only in and through the Cross can true and lasting happiness – true and lasting blessedness – be found.

Is this not why Christ the Lord says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)? As we embrace the Cross, we each become foolish, weak, and lowly in the view of the world. Yet it is precisely the foolish, the weak, and the lowly who can “take refuge in the name of the Lord;” the worldly wise, the strong, and the proud cannot do so (Zephaniah 3:12). The Beatitudes, then, “are directions for discipleship, directions that concern every individual, even though – according to the variety of callings – they do so differently for each person” because they teach us how to take up the Cross and follow Jesus by becoming like him.[4]

Those who become foolish, who become both weak and lowly, recognize their need for the Savior and see in Christ Jesus him who is “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (I Corinthians 1:30). These are those who trust neither in themselves, nor in their own power, but who trust completely in God. “They come with empty hands; not with hands that grasp and clutch, but with hands that open and give and thus are ready to receive from God’s bountiful goodness.”[5] These are those who know themselves to be beggars, for the gesture of a beggar is an outstretched, empty hand. Indeed, we can rightly say, “In the heart of every man, begging for love, there is a thirst for love.”[6] In we are honest, each one of us is a beggar for love before God.

The men and women whom Jesus calls “blessed” are those who yearn for love. If we, too, desire to be called blessed by the Lord,

We need only to become aware that the gesture of opening our hand, of being able to receive in all simplicity, through which love first attains its inner purity, is grasping at nothing unless there is someone who can fill our hands with the grace of forgiveness. And thus once again everything would have to end in idle waste, in meaninglessness, if the answer to this, namely, Christ, did not exist. Thus, true loving necessarily passes into the gesture of faith, and in that gesture lies a demand for the mystery of Christ, a reaching out toward it – and that, mystery, when it unfolds, is a necessary development of that basic gesture; to reject it would be to reject both faith and love.[7]

The gesture of faith is the same as the gesture of love: an open and empty hand, seeking to be filled and seeking to be grasped by the beloved. If we stretch out an empty hand to Jesus he will always fill it, he will always grasp it. But we cannot then clinch our fists and never open them again because a filled hand is meant to be emptied. When our hands become filled with the love of God they must be opened and poured out upon others; this is the way of the Cross and the lesson of the Beatitudes.

Perhaps this is what led Saint Augustine to say this about the way we follow after Christ Jesus:

You hear the voice of a beggar, but before God you are yourself a beggar. Someone is begging from you, while you yourself are begging. As you treat the beggar, so will God treat his. You who are empty are being filled. Out of your fullness fill an empty person in need, so that your own emptiness may be again filled by the fullness of God.[8]

The Lord Jesus heard the voices of us beggars and poured out his love upon us. Let us not be stingy with his love, but willingly pour the love we receive from him out upon others, so that they, and we, might be blessed, having become like Christ. Amen.

[1] Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Adrian J. Walker, trans., (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 74.

[2] Ibid., Angelus Address, 30 January 2011.

[3] Ibid., Jesus of Nazareth, 74.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 76.

[6] Ibid., Homily, 29 March 2007.

[7] Ibid., Credo for Today: What Christians Believe. Michael J. Miller, et al, trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 13.

[8] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 53.5.

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