Dear Friends in Christ,
On the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, as we listened to Matthew’s gospel account of Jesus teaching the crowd the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12a), I thought of Jesus as an artist, sketching the features of a person for a portrait. As Jesus declared: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they who mourn, blessed are the meek; it seemed to me that the person who is blessed and lives the Beatitudes first and foremost is Jesus himself. In some ways, Jesus is presenting the crowd with a self-portrait which displays the spiritual features of Jesus. These features express the mystery of Jesus’ identity, an identity that is finally revealed through his cross and resurrection.
Jesus invites us to be Christians and as such to follow him and walk toward the mystery of his cross and resurrection. As Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in a homily, to the extent we accept Jesus’ proposal and set out to follow him, we can participate in his blessedness. We can share in the meaning of being people who hunger and thirst for justice, be people who live with pure hearts, offer mercy and strive to be peacemakers. With the help of Jesus and only with the help of Jesus, we can live as people of the Beatitudes and become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt: 5, 48).
Pope Francis commented on the Beatitudes in Matthew’s gospel, noting that Jesus begins with the word: “Blessed”. Jesus is making a proclamation of an unprecedented happiness. Beatitude… is above all a joyful discovery of being God’s beloved sons and daughters. And this discovery fills us with joy. It is not a human achievement; it is a gift we receive. We are holy because God, who is the Holy One, comes to dwell in our lives (Angelus Address November 1, 2021).
Dear Friends, in the weeks before we arrive at Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent, I encourage each of you to take time in prayer and consider the spiritual features of Jesus. When is he merciful? When is he poor in spirit? When do you see how clean and pure is the heart of Jesus? Try to write down what you noticed in a journal. My hope is that by recognizing the features of Jesus through reflecting on the gospel, the liturgy and our daily lives, we might develop a portrait of who is Jesus. May his spiritual goodness and purity of heart draw us closer to him so that the features of his being and the pattern of his life are made present in our own lives, too.
Bishop Michael McGovern