The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - 30th January 2011


Many authors have written about the fact that the Beatitudes are the magna carta for the disciples of Jesus.  Whereas the ten commandments frame the experience of following God in terms of "don'ts" the Beatitudes present the experience of discipleship in terms of what we should do - or, more accurately, in terms of how we should be.

There is a very important difference between being and doing.  What I do does not change me internally.  Like so many "religious" people that we may have come across, external practice doesn't change the heart.  There is an old saying from monastic life that goes: "The habit doesn't make the monk".

The Beatitudes speak about how a disciple should be - more precisely, the sorts of attitude by which we can recognise a disciple.  It is interesting to note that each one of these attitudes has to do with weakness.  There is very little in the Beatitudes that would ever lead someone to success.  This makes it all the more surprising that these attitudes are what characterise the disciple as "blessed" or "happy" (depending on the translation).

There is nothing happy about being poor, or persecuted, or mourning.  That is not the point.  The point is that when things are going well, when I am satisfied, when I am at peace; I don't need very much.  If, as a disciple, I don't need very much then I don't need to follow anyone.  When I am satisfied with my lot there is no urgency in my life and I have no need to change.

Discipleship is about changing.  It is not about changing who I am but rather about changing how I am.  As a disciple I am challenged to take on board the uncertainty of the lives of those around me - to compromise myself by my commitment to others.  Any relationship involves compromise but we choose most of our relationships.  The gospel challenges us to go beyond our comfort zone and to compromise our lives by relating with those who are excluded, those who are difficult and yes, of course, with our enemies.

The bottom line is love, and the flip-side of love will always be forgiveness.  I cannot love you if I don't forgive you and I cannot forgive you unless I love you.  However, neither love nor forgiveness comes easily to us.  What we are offered in the Beatitudes is a plan for life.  In fact, it is a plan that we can never really hope to realise fully since we can never have claimed to have committed ourselves to all those who are suffering or excluded or difficult.  We begin this plan as limited and imperfect human beings and we search for our path.  This search, rather like the search in St. Augustine's own life, can lead us in many directions.  However, we will really only have begun our search when we begin to look inside ourselves.

St. Augustine says: "Search for God to find yourself, search for yourself to find God".  In other words, when we begin to look at ourselves and see ourselves as the image of God we begin to become more complete.  It is then that how we are with others will begin to transform who we are because we will begin to see them too as images of God.

Possidius




Article posted on 29th of January 2011

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