Joy and Hope
May 23, 2009
Make the manners of the Beatitudes the habits of the heart
One of the most beautiful and accessible of the many works of the late Holy Father, John Paul II, is his apostolic letter, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” the “Rosary of the Virgin Mary.” In this letter the late John Paul re-acquaints us with the beauty and power of this very simple form of Christian prayer, the recitation of the holy rosary.
His timely and insightful contribution to this devotion was the introduction of the luminous mysteries: the Baptism of the Lord, the Wedding Feast of Cana, the Announcement of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Last Supper. Characteristic of all the mysteries of the rosary is their focus on Jesus and our share in his life, death and resurrection.
Through the meditation on the mysteries of the rosary, our mother Mary helps us to remember her son, Jesus. Praying with her, she guides us as we learn more about Christ. We conform ourselves to Him. We pray to Him and come to proclaim Christ more clearly in our own lives. I would like to illustrate this briefly reflecting on two of the luminous mysteries: the proclamation of the Kingdom and the Transfiguration.
For this reflection I will draw from the accounts from in the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5.1-16) and the Transfiguration (Mt. 17.1-9). The author of Matthew saturates his narration with references to Jewish law and practices as well as many powerful Jewish archetypes. Such is the case in the texts I have cited from the Gospel of Matthew.
In both cases Jesus goes up to the top of a mountain, much as Moses did. Moses is a powerful figure in the Gospel of Matthew. The person of Moses is mentioned repeatedly in this Gospel not only because he gave the Jewish people the law. Moses was also the great friend of God. He could see the face of God and live. He dialogued with God as a friend.
The author of Matthew’s Gospel saw Jesus as a new figure of Moses. Not only does he give a new law and covenant, he also is the Son of God and knows the heavenly Father even more intimately than Moses. All those invited to journey with him up the mountain are, like Moses, the friends of the Son of God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the disciples ascend the mountain with Jesus. They are being drawn into this friendship with God, an intimate and awesome friendship with the mighty God. Jesus shares with them the manner and mind of God as he enunciates for them the Beatitudes. They are being drawn into that sacred space and holy relationship that previously was only that of Moses.
This is repeated again in the 17th chapter of Matthew when Jesus again ascends the mountaintop with Peter, James and John. They are brought into the holy communion of friendship shared by Moses and Elijah who were considered great friends of God.
It is this gift of divine friendship, sacred fellowship that gives meaning and motive to the beatitudes. Jesus shares with the disciples the manner and mind of God so that they too can continue to share in the friendship of God with Jesus. They were being molded into the prophetic image of Moses and Elijah. Their ministry as the disciples of Jesus would imitate the ministry of Moses and Elijah. They would draw strength and grace from their friendship with the Lord, their intimate communion with the Lord Jesus.
When we meditate on these luminous mysteries, all of us are being drawn into the mystery of this same fellowship with the Lord. The Lord Jesus has invited us to ascend the mountain of God’s love and mercy so that we know the Lord more intimately, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly.
Many of you may remember the popular musical from the 1970s, “Godspell.” In that whimsical musical was the song “Day by Day.” In that song were the words:
“Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day”
In some sense it was a very simple and childlike song. Yet, the words are very relevant to what we seek as the outcome of our prayer and meditation on the mysteries of the holy rosary: “Three things I pray, to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”
We can do this by making the manners of the Beatitudes the habits of our heart. Poverty of spirit, mournfulness of sin, meekness of manner, a hunger and thirst for justice, mercy, purity of heart, peacemaker, patience under persecution – these are the manners that bring us into the mind of Jesus and mold us into the image of Jesus. The consolations that Jesus promises to those who mimic these Christ-like manners are the gifts of his friendship and love.
We should not pursue these manners with an ambition only for their consolation. The only ambition, the only desire should be to draw close to Christ, to be brought to the mountaintop where we are embraced by his friendship and witness the radiance of his affection for us.
I began by citing the Holy Father’s apostolic letter, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” and the introduction of the luminous mysteries. I hope that these reflections might encourage you to take up with more devotion of the practice of praying the holy rosary during the remaining days of the month of May as well as throughout the year. Ponder these mysteries that bring us into the wondrous mystery of friendship and fellowship with the Lord Jesus.