Sunday, January 29, 2012

Catholicism. A Journey To The Heart Of The Faith by Robert Barron

Chapter 2. Happy Are We: The Teaching Of Jesus explores some of the teachings of Jesus Christ by considering the eight beatitudes presented in the Sermon on the Mount. Father Barron goes through the "more 'positive' formulations" first; essentially he considers these beatitudes as helping us achieve a right ordering of our lives with God central and foremost.

These beatitudes are "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.","Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.", "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will by satisfied.", and "Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called the children of God.".

From these "positive" beatitudes, Barron moves onto those beatitudes which help to reorient us towards God. In our fallen nature, "we sense within ourselves the hunger for God, but we attempt to satisfy it with some created good that is less than God." Those substitutes are usually one of the following four; wealth, pleasure, power and honour. We usually discover that, as we seek to fill the void created by a lack of God, with one of the above four or any combination of them, our lives become more disordered and more directed towards achieving that substitute. Barron terms them addictions that block our path to developing a closer, more meaningful relationship with God.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." is a directive towards detachment from material goods.

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted." is a summons to avoid the "addiction to good feelings". These feelings can be anything pleasurable in the realm of physical,emotional or psychological.

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land." is a warning against seeking power in life as a substitute for God. The desire for power is probably the strongest and most irresistible, probably because power often brings about more of the other three.

"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." exhorts us to shun the love of honour.

Barron goes on to further explore Jesus' exhortation to love one's enemies. Jesus' directive, "But I say to you, offer no resistence to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.', is not an instruction to acquiesce to evil, or to do nothing. Instead, he challenges his followers to try a different approach - that of standing our ground and showing the aggressor the injustice of his actions. The intent is possibly to reform that aggressor.

Father Barron concludes this chapter with an excellent discussion of the parable of the prodigal son and the parable of the sheep and the goats contained in chapter 25 of Matthew's Gospel.  I will leave the reader to discover these gems on their own.

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