As I’ve already shared, this past weekend I gave a silent retreat for fifty undergraduates titled, Developing the Beatitudes in Our Lives.
We don’t always take the Beatitudes seriously as an instruction for how to live our lives. We hear them and are struck by their poetic beauty, but we don’t always view them as speaking directly to us. In a commentary on the Beatitudes, Charles James Cook wrote:
We admire the instruction, but we fear the implications of putting the words into actual practice. …We often approach them as an impossible challenge for ordinary living. Only the greatest of saints are up to to the task. Therefore, we wait for the occasionsl figures like Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Desmond Tutu to show us the way. In the meantime, the world does not get any better, and we remain unfulfilled in our pale expressions of Christian discipleship.
First and foremost, as Pope Bendict XVI observed in his book Jesus of Nazareth, “the Beatitudes express the meaning of discipleship.” They are not intended as sweet platitudes, but as ways we orient and live our lives (which is why I titled the weekend, Developing the Beatitudes in our Lives – emphasis on “developing”).
To help us live more fully in the spirit of the Beatitudes, we spent the weekend exploring what the Beatitudes mean, reflecting on how they challenge us, where our growing edges are, where we need God’s grace. I gave a number of talks over the course of the weekend, addressing one or more of the Beatitudes, leaving the students plenty of time between the talks to pray and reflect in between our group sessions.
Although I treated several Beatitudes together in a couple of talks, there were two to which I devoted special attention, giving them their own talks. On Saturday morning I spoke about poverty of spirit, a necessary ingredient in any authentic Christian attitude toward life. Johannes Baptist Metz calls poverty of spirit the “mysterious place where God and humanity encounter each other, the point where infinite mystery meets concrete existence.” I devoted Saturday evening to Jesus promise that we will be persecuted and insulted because of him (a talk we followed with the Stations of the Cross and Eucharistic Adoration).
You can listen to a recording of my talk on poverty of spirit here or stream it from the icon below. The podcast runs for 30:24. You can listen to my talk on “Blessed are they who persecute you…” here. The podcast runs for 25:26.
Poverty of Spirit:
Being Crucified with Christ: