Wednesday in the Thirty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey
Like yesterday’s gospel, today’s gospel is describing the 8th beatitude: “Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is the beatitude that St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bernard say is the one that sums up the first 7 beatitudes. It promises the same thing as the first: the kingdom of heaven, so its promise applies to all of those in between.
The question posed to each of us individually and all of us as a community is: does the kingdom of God matter enough to endure persecution? To endure hardship?
Redemptorist Fr. Dennis Billy notices St. Bernard’s teaching that this beatitude is the measure of our conversion. Bernard describes how each of the beatitudes portrays the movement of God in a person’s heart. In the 1st beatitude it begins with a deep sense of one’s own spiritual poverty. One’s way of life is just not working anymore. In the 2nd it moves on to a humble admission of one’s inability to change, and then to the 3rd, a mourning over the soul’s stubbornness and petty obstinacy. The sun is setting on an old way of life. It shows itself in the 4th as a hungering for righteousness, which, in the 5th beatitude, increases through spiritual and corporal acts of mercy. The sun is rising on a new way of life that counters self-preoccupation. With the 6th beatitude it eventually leads to a complete purification of the heart. The last two beatitudes give the consummate signs of conversion: In the 7th a person’s increased ability to extend the peace of Christ to others, and in the 8th a willingness to suffer and even die for the faith, hope, & love.
This is full conversion. With righteousness as their purpose and Christ as their cause, they are willing to stand firm in the face of every adversity. The conversion process of the beatitudes is nicely summed up in the words of a song:
“I don’t live the way that I used to;
Lately, that just ain’t my style.
And the hard times don’t cut like they used to;
they pass quicker, like when I was a child.
Somehow, I learned how to listen,
to the sound of the sun dying down.
Knowing in the morning I’ll be singing
a song for this life I have found.
You know, it keeps my feet on the ground.”
 “A Song for the Life”