VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The beatitudes are a self-portrait of Jesus, says Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa and thus, we should not only imitate them but also make them our own.
He said this today during a Lenten reflection in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel.
In faith we can “drink the meekness of Christ, as well as his purity of heart and any other virtue of his,” the Capuchin said.
Father Cantalamessa said that we can pray for meekness, in the same way that St. Augustine prayed for chastity: “O God, you ask that I be meek; give me what you ask and ask me what you will.”
His Lenten reflections have focused on the Eight Beatitudes; today’s was: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Humility and patience
The beatitudes are Jesus’ self-portrait, Father Cantalamessa said: “He is the true poor one, meek, pure of heart, persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
To understand the full meaning of meekness, the Pontifical Household preacher underlined two constant associations of the Bible and ancient Christian exhortations: meekness and humility, and meekness and patience.
“One shows the interior dispositions from which meekness springs; the other the attitudes one should have toward one’s neighbor: affability, gentleness, courtesy,” Father Cantalamessa said.
The Gospels “are the demonstration of Christ’s meekness, in its dual aspect of humility and patience,” he pointed out. “Highest proof of Christ’s meekness was witnessed in his passion: … no gesture of anger, no threat; … but Jesus did much more than give us an example of meekness and heroic patience.”
“He made of meekness and nonviolence the sign of true greatness,” the priest said; so that the latter “no longer consists in raising oneself above others, above the masses, but in lowering oneself to serve and raise others.”
The social relevance of the beatitudes is perhaps clearest in this call to meekness, the preacher said, referring to the extraordinary relevance of this beatitude “in the debate on religion and violence.”
“The Gospel leaves no room for doubt. In it there are no exhortations to nonviolence mixed with contrary exhortations,” he said.
Father Cantalamessa then directed his meditation to the theme of the heart, saying that meekness is rooted there.
Echoing Gospel teaching, he warned that it is from the heart that evil, violent explosions, wars and conflicts proceed, as well as violent thoughts.
However, he added, these thoughts can be blocked when they are not charitable: “Our mind has the capacity to prevent the development of a thought, to know, from the beginning, where it will end: either in forgiving or in condemning one’s brother, either in one’s own glory or in that of God.”
Father Cantalamessa recalled the promise linked to the beatitude of the meek — they shall inherit the earth, “which is realized on several planes, until the definitive promised land, which is eternal life.”
“But,” he added “certainly one of the planes is human: The earth is men’s hearts. The meek win trust, they attract souls.”