Blessed are They that Mourn
Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:5
Having seen how the poor in spirit and the meek are blessed, the third beatitude is for those who mourn. Why do we mourn? We mourn an illness or injury, for something something deer to us, for the loss of a loved one, and out of compassion for someone else’s suffering. Therefore, we always mourn the loss of something good, and no one mourns the loss of something bad. We can mourn in a way that causes us to turn in on ourselves in self-pity and self-righteousness, or we can try to do something about it (but that’s the next beatitude, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness).
St. Augustine said, “Mourning is sorrow for the loss of what is dear; but those that are turned to God lose the things that they held dear in this world; and as they have now no longer any joy in such things as before they had joy in, their sorrow may not be healed till there is formed within them a love of eternal things. They then shall be comforted by the Holy Spirit, who is therefore chiefly called, The Paraclete, that is, ‘Comforter;’ so that for the loss of their temperal joys, they shall gain eternal joys.” Through poverty and meekness, we have learned to give up the good things of this life, and this leads to the mourning of the third beatitude. When we give up the love of worldly things, God will comfort us by giving us heavenly joys. The season of Lent is a perfect example of this. During Lent we fast from good things, things that bring us joy, like meat on Fridays, sweets, television, or whatever you’ve sacrificed. We still have longings for those things, but each time we should remind oursleves that we gave them up because we love God more than them, and this will increase our hunger for God, whom we will receive at Easter.
St. Ambrose said, “When you have done this much, attained both poverty and meekness, remember that you are a sinner, mourn your sins,” and St. Hilary, “Those that mourn, that is, not loss of kindred, affronts, or losses, but who weep for past sins.” We mourn for losses, and our sins cost us the grace of God and the joys of heaven. We should mourn when we realize what our sins cost us. That mourning can help motivate us to flee from sin and everything that leads us to sin, to have a conversion of life, and to turn to the Lord. When we learn to mourn our sins God will comfort us with growth in holiness and, eventually, eternal life in heaven.
St. Jerome said, “For the mourning here meant is not for th dead by common course of nature, but the dead in sins, and vices. Thus Samuel mourned for Saul, thus the Apostle Paul mourned for those who had not performed penance after uncleanness.” It is greater to mourn for another’s loss than for one’s own, so the mourning for our own sins turns into mourning for the sins of others. We mourn for what they have lost by their sins. When we love one another as Christ has loved us, then we want what is best for one another, and what is best is heaven and the love of God. We are not like those who say that God hates sinners. On the contrary, God loves each one of us and has offered us eternal life through the forgiveness of sins which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, won for us by His Cross and Resurrection.
As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rm 8:12-17).
Blessed are the Meek
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5
St. Ambrose said, “When I have learned contentment in poverty, the next lesson is to govern my heart and temper. For what good is it to me to be without worldly things, unless I have besides a meek spirit? It suitable follows therefore, Blessed are the meek.” The Beatitudes have a certain order. From the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” we learn humility and to treasure heavenly riches, rather than earthly. Then, we must learn to be meek, which is to govern our tempers, to be gentle, or compassionate, with our neighbor, and to suffer wrongs patiently.
St. Ambrose also said, “Soften therefore your temper that you be not angry, at least that you be angry and sin not. It is a noble thing to govern passion by reason.” Once we’ve learned to value grace over worldly goods, then we must learn to govern our emotions through reason. Pride causes us to insist on our own way, and to become angry when things don’t go our way, but that isn’t reasonable. Instead of insisting on our own way, we should learn to insist on God’s way.
The Gospel of Matthew applies a passage from the Prophet Isaiah to Jesus, “He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory” (Mt 12:19-20). A bruised reed, a reed that’s already been bent, is easy to break and a candle that’s just smoldering, not on fire, is easy to put it if you’re not being careful. This is a description of someone who is careful, or gentle, with the people he interacts with. He is capable of being forceful, such as when He cleanses the Temple, but he is often gentle with wounded souls. Think of how He speaks with the woman at the well, drawing her to faith in Him, or how He speaks to the woman caught in adultery, “Has no one condemned you?... Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:10-11). Think about how Jesus saw that Zacchaeus wanted to see Him so much that He climbed a tree to get a better view, and invited Him to conversion, saying, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house” (Lk 19:5). Meekness helps us to show gentleness and compassion to one another.
St. Augustine said, “The meek are they who resist not wrongs, and give way to evil; but overcome evil of good.” We normally want to respond to insults with insults, and to violence with violence. Sometimes, we need to use force to defend ourselves or others from harm, but we should only use the amount of force required to end the threat. However, we should never wish harm upon another person or desire to get revenge. Meekness allows us to respond to insults and injuries with charity and patience.
The Lord promises that the meek “shall inherit the earth.” St. John Chrysostom says, “Because it is commonly supposed that he who is meek loses all that he possesses, Christ here gives a contrary promise, that he who is not forward shall possess his own in security, but that he of a contrary disposition many times loses his soul and his paternal inheritance.” For those whose bottom line is the bottom line, they will ultimately lose everything that they seem to have, because you can’t take anything with you when you go. As Job says, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again” (Job 1:21). On the other hand, the meek will inherit heaven, and, in the resurrection of the dead, they will receive the world as well, for the Lord said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:19-20).
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3
In the Bible God is shown to be the One who keeps His promises, such as the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the promises made to King David. However, He keeps His promises in unexpected ways and the final fulfillment of those promises is greater than we could have hoped for, because they are fulfilled in Christ. In this verse, Jesus Christ promises that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Is spiritual poverty related to economic poverty? How can we become poor in spirit?
St. Ambrose says, “In the eye of Heaven blessedness begins there where misery begins in human estimation.” Remember that Jesus said, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:24) and “You cannot serve both God and mammon” Mt 6:24). We’re often tempted to put our trust in wealth. Money solves a lot of problems and opens a lot of doors, so we’re tempted to trust in wealth to provide safety, security, and happiness. However, wealth also creates problems, and it can’t solve the basic problem of life. As the Beatles sang, “Money can’t buy me love.” The most important things in life can’t be bought; they can only be freely given and freely received. They come from our relationships with other people and from our relationship with God.
St. Jerome says, “The poor in spirit are those who embrace a voluntary poverty for the sake of the Holy Spirit.” Throughout the history of the Church there have been people who embrace poverty for the sake of the kingdom of God, such as hermits, monks and nuns, and members of religious orders, who take a vow of poverty. They rely on God for all things, completely placing their trust in Him, so that they might be a sign of the power of faith. They have given up an inheritance in the world, so that they might store up treasures in heaven. They rely on the promise that God made to the High Priest Aaron and the tribe of Levi, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel” (Nm 18:20).
St. John Chrysostom says, “He here calls all loftiness of soul and temper spirit; for as there are many humble against their will, constrained by their outward condition, they have no praise; the blessing is on those who humble themselves by their own choice. Thus, He begins at once at the root, pulling up pride which is the root and source of all evil, setting up its opposite, humility, as a firm foundation.” The only way to be truly poor in spirit is through humility. Priests and religious who live a simple life may still nourish pride and arrogance in their hearts, while a rich person, like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, may be truly humble. Humility is the foundation of all the virtues. It helps us to be honest with ourselves about our failings and recognize our need for grace.
Cultivate humility by listening more than speaking, seeing the good in others, and using good manners (which are a sign of respect for other people, thus showing that we don’t consider ourselves more important than them). The best way to cultivate humility is by praying for it and regularly going to confession. Going to confession is a great act of humility because we have to examine our consciences, admit to the wrongs we’ve done, and ask God for forgiveness through the ministry of the Church. Aim for at least once a month.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.