Incarnating the Beatitudes

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

ONE of the most intriguing teachings of Christ are the Beatitudes. (cfr. Lk 6,20-26) They make us wonder why it is blessed to go through all kinds of suffering here on earth—to be poor, hungry, persecuted, etc.

The answer, of course, is that the Beatitudes clearly tell us what to expect in this life, filled as it is with all kinds of challenges, difficulties and the like. They assure us that as long as we go through all these sufferings with Christ, we indeed would be blessed! That’s because Christ offers us a way of how to convert our human suffering into a means of our own salvation.

The great task we have at hand with respect to the Beatitudes is how to incarnate them in our life. We all know that we have a natural aversion to any kind of suffering, and that we hardly go beyond the natural or the infranatural aspects of our sufferings. We fail to see their purifying and redemptive potentials.

That is why we really need to discipline our mind and heart, our understanding and feelings, so as to align them to the saving ways of Christ. And one way of doing this is to develop in a proactive way a spirit of sacrifice, a spirit of self-denial and mortification. And this done and lived on a daily basis.

We have to understand that we need to make sacrifices simply because Christ himself commanded us so. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16,24) These clear words of Christ do not limit our need for sacrifices to the facts that suffering and pain are inescapable in life, or that we are willing to suffer for something or someone we love.

Our need for sacrifice is first of all based on the fact that Christ commands it. We should not wait for suffering and pain to come before we make sacrifices. Neither should we wait to be moved to suffer for something or for someone we love before we make sacrifices.

We make sacrifices simply because Christ said so, and he said so because it is necessary for us. More than expiating for our sins, the sacrifices are a clear expression of a total self-giving which is the essence of love.

Sacrifices, as iconized by the Cross of Christ, are what distinguish a Christian. The cross is the sign of the Christian because it is the center of the saving life and action of Christ. It shows how much Christ obeys his Father out of love, and how much he loves us.

We have to learn to sanctify our sacrifices by uniting them with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. That is how we make our sufferings and pain divine and with redemptive value.

It is by uniting our sacrifices with that of Christ that we can find the meaning and value of suffering and pain in this life. As a Church document puts it: “Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us.” (Gaudium et spes, 22)

We should not doubt that the cross has a tremendous saving power. We have to learn to love it and therefore to look for it and to carry it, as Christ himself commanded us. We should not just tolerate it.