Friday, February 03, 2012

On Being Blessed

Over at Cinema Catechism, we have started a new winter/spring series, with catechesis on the theme of The Beatitudes.

The word “Beatitudes,” is derived from “beati,” as used in the Latin Bible. This Latin word “beati” has been translated as “blessed,” but it also is sometimes translated as “happy.”

Hence, in the Beatitudes listed in Matthew 5:3-10, we read "Blessed are . . ." The Gospel according to Luke (6:20-26) lists certain Beatitudes as well, but it also includes various "woes," e.g. "who to you who are . . ."

Aside from the Beatitudes, in everyday usage, we might say that this person is blessed with this or because of that. And in recent days, we have heard prominent wealthy people suggest that, with respect to their wealth, they have been "blessed" to have so much, that their riches are a blessing. These prominent people have also gone on to suggest that because their wealth has been "given" to them, that because much has been given to them, much is demanded of them, such as paying more in taxes to the secular government. In this context of blessing and wealth having been "given" to them, the implication clearly is that it was given to them by God.

That is a rather curious theology for someone to say. (Even more curious since these very same people, while implying that wealth is a blessing that has been given to them by God, then go on to demonize the wealthy.) Indeed, this is quite the opposite of what the Lord Himself says. He does NOT say, "Blessed are the rich." To the contrary, He says, "Blessed are you who are poor" (Luke 6:20)("Blessed are the poor in spirit" in Mt. 5:3), and this is followed by the very explicit words, "woe to you who are rich" (Luke 6:24).

In other words, worldly riches are NOT a blessing or gift from God. In fact, being rich in material things often leads to one being "rich in spirit"; such worldly wealth puts one at risk, it creates the danger and temptation for the person to think that, since he has so much already, that he does not need God. To be placed in a position of believing that you do not need God is not a blessing. Rather, the truly blessed is the one who is "poor in spirit," who understands that he DOES need God, that he is dependent upon God, that only with God can he receive what is truly good.

God does ask quite a bit of those who are materially wealthy, but not because He's the one who gave them all their money and possessions. Rather, He asks this as a matter of love; He asks them, and all of us, to love one another -- to make the free and voluntary choice to make a gift of self to others. And He certainly does not demand that those individuals who are rich give over their money to an entity that is infinitely more wealthier than they are. Instead, Jesus says for the rich to give their wealth to people who are poorer (Mt. 19:21), to utilize their estates in such a fashion to help the poor themselves, rather than impersonally shifting the burden of helping the poor onto government.

One is not converted from a woeful rich by giving his money to Caesar, much less passively allowing his earnings to be withheld in taxes with no action on his part. It is only in such personal charity, from the Latin "caritas," it is only in such personal love and gift of self that one can be converted from a "woe" to a "blessed." Jesus did not say to the tax collector, "keep up the good work Matthew," but "follow me." (Mt. 9:9) It is only in the personal act of love that one can be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure of heart, and a peacemaker.


Question said...

If you would, please - I don't even know where to look for the answer to this. Are we "called to be Eucharist to each other" ?? - this is from a video from a class I'm teaching. It sounds odd somehow.


Bender said...

Are we "called to be Eucharist to each other" ?? - this is from a video from a class I'm teaching. It sounds odd somehow.

As an isolated proposition, "we are called to be Eucharist to each other," does sound pretty odd, if not blasphemous, even if well-intentioned. It is not something that I would feel comfortable saying, being more misleading than enlightening (as well as having the flavor of something out of the 1970s).

(1) The Eucharist is, of course, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the ultimate act of self-giving in love by the Bridegroom Jesus.

And we are not the Lord. We are not divine. We are mere human creatures, and imperfect ones at that. So to equate ourselves with Him in that manner would seem to be quite wrong.

(2) At the same time, we are called to be like Him, to allow the Light of Christ to shine through us, to allow others, by our love, to see Jesus in our actions, while we see the face of Jesus in those we encounter. Similarly, we are called, like Mary, to carry Jesus with us to be shared with others.

We are also called to make a gift of self to others to others, giving the entirety of our life if necessary.

Finally, we are also called to be one with Him (hence the name "Communion"), such that, if each of us is one with Him in the Eucharist, and He is one with us, in body and spirit, then we are necessarily one with each other -- one body in Christ.

3. Are these latter applications what is meant by "we are called to be Eucharist to each other"?

I don't know. But I do know that to use it in the former sense would be wrong.

And if what is meant is the latter sense, well, why not simply say that instead?

Bender said...

Addendum --

By our own actions, by our own good works, we do not and cannot become the Eucharist. We cannot become divine by our own efforts. We cannot make ourselves God. We are not the self-actualizers of salvation.

There is only one Eucharist. Not many Eucharists. Singular, not plural. One Body of Christ. Him, not we.

There is only one Eucharist, and that is Christ Himself. And the worldly elements of bread and wine become the Blessed Sacrament, not by any human action, but by the act of God. God and God alone. We do not create the Blessed Sacrament by our good works, we do not become the Blessed Sacrament by our good works.

Again, "we are called to be Eucharist to each other" is confusing and misleading at best, blasphemous and theological error (heresy) at worst.

Bender said...

Another big problem here is --

If we are Eucharist to each other, or if we just say plainly, we are Eucharist, what need do we have of Christ as Eucharist?

If we can be Eucharist, to others or by ourselves, if we are already consecrated and sanctified, we don't need Jesus, we don't need a savior, we don't need the Blessed Sacrament.

Well Answered said...

Thank you for your help. You put into words very well why indeed it was an "odd" thing to say.

Echos of Faith series - The Person of the Catechist. (Using the series under duress)