The heart of holiness

May 30, 2018-Reading time: 4 minutes

The beatitudes They are, in fact, as the Pope has said, "the Christian's identity card".

Text - Ramiro Pellitero

The Bishop of Vitoria has written, Juan Carlos Elizaldethat the heart of Pope Francis' exhortation (Gaudete et exsultate) on holiness is the discourse on the beatitudes and the parable of the final judgment. This is so, not only because they occupy the central (third) chapter of the document, but also because they show the face of Christ and therefore, the face of Christian holiness.

In his book "Happiness where it is not expected", Jacques Philippe maintains that the text of the beatitudes "contains all the novelty of the Gospel, all its wisdom and its power to deeply transform the heart of man and renew the world" (J. Philippe, Happiness where it is not expected: Meditation on the Beatitudes, Rialp, Madrid 2018.

The new heart

In them," says Francis, "the face of the Master is drawn, which we are called to make transparent in our daily lives" (n. 63). He adds that the beatitudes propose a lifestyle "against the current".with respect to many trends in today's environment. An environment that propagates hedonistic consumerism and polemics, easy success and ephemeral joys, post-truth and its subterfuges, the primacy of the self and relativism. On the other hand, the beatitudes," observes Philippe, "propose a new way of life. "unexpected happiness"coupled with a "God's surprise"a free gift of the comforting Spirit"...

The Beatitudes, the Pope warns, are not an easy or flattering proposition: "We can only live them if the Holy Spirit invades us with all his power and frees us from the weakness of selfishness, community and pride" (n. 65).

J. Philippe also underlines this role of the Holy Spirit to make us live the beatitudes, in the framework that the Triune God offers us and gives us to participate. By depicting the face of Jesus, the beatitudes also show us the face of Jesus. the face of God the FatherHis mercy, his tenderness, his generosity which transforms us interiorly and gives us a new heart. "The beatitudes are nothing other than the description of this new heart which the Holy Spirit forms in us, and which is the very heart of Christ".

This is why, as this author recalls in his introduction, medieval theologians relate the beatitudes to the seven gifts of the Spirit. In this sense, the beatitudes are Jesus' answer to the question: how can we welcome the work of the Holy Spirit, the action of divine grace? They are at the same time fruits and conditions of the action of the Spirit. In their coherence and profound unity, the beatitudes are personal way of human and Christian maturity, and at the same time, the necessary framework for family, social and ecclesial life, way and pledge of the Kingdom of God.

A program that is always up to date

Francis underlines some aspect of each beatitude. The Gospels link "poverty of spirit" as a virtue (which leads to inner freedom) to the poverty The "simple" life, which implies "an austere and stripped-down existence" (n. 70) and sharing the life of the most needy. We are invited to be meekto reject conceit with humility and to bear with the faults of others, not to be scandalized by their weaknesses" (n. 72).

They invite us "not to conceal reality" (n. 75) by turning our backs on suffering; on the contrary, they propose to us to cry and to understand the profound mystery of suffering, to gaze upon the Cross, to console and help others. Live justice in particularAs was already called for in the Old Testament: with the oppressed, the orphans and the widows. Acting with mercyWe are all "an army of the forgiven" (n. 72).

The Gospels ask us to take care of the desires and intentions of the heartrejecting "what is not sincere, but only shells and appearances" (n. 84). They impel us to seek to resolve conflicts, to be artisans of peaceThis requires "serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill" (n. 89). They encourage us to overcome some of the "problems" that the path of holiness brings: mockery, slander and persecution. 

The "protocol" of mercy

All this is beautifully expressed by the "grand protocol by which we will be judged. It is a detailed explanation of that beatitude that represents them all: mercyFor I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me" (Mt 25:35-36). The parable of the Last Judgment, writes St. John Paul II, "is not simply an invitation to charity: it is a page of Christology, which illuminates the Mystery of Christ". Francis notes that it "reveals the very heart of Christ, his deepest sentiments and choices" (n. 96). And he insists that mercy is the beating heart of the Gospel (n. 97).

For this reason, Bishop Elizalde opportunely emphasizes that it is It is a harmful mistake to dissociate charitable action from a personal relationship with the Lord, since it turns the Church into an NGO (cf. n. 100). But also that it is an ideological mistake to be systematically suspicious of social engagement of others, "considering it as something superficial, worldly, secularist, immanentist, communist, populist" (n. 101).

Indeed. As his predecessors, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, had already pointed out, Francis declares it necessary to keep alive the promotion and defense of life together with social sensitivity for the needy.The defense of the innocent unborn, for example, must be clear, firm and passionate, because the dignity of human life, which is always sacred, is at stake here, and love for each person beyond his or her development demands it. But equally sacred is the life of the poor who have already been born, who struggle in misery, (...) and in every form of discarding" (n. 101). Migration is no less important than bioethics (cf. n. 102).

Coherence in daily life

The third chapter of the Gaudete et exsultate with a call to the Christian coherence. Worship of God and prayer should lead us to mercy towards others, which is, as St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, "the sacrifice that pleases him most" (S. Th, II-II, q30, a4). On the other hand, as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, "if we are too busy with ourselves, we will have no time left for others".

The Pope concludes with these words: "The strength of the witness of the saints lies in living the beatitudes and the protocol of the Last Judgment. They are few words, simple, but practical and valid for everyone, because Christianity is primarily to be practicedand if it is also an object of reflection, this is only valid when it helps us to living the Gospel in daily life. I strongly recommend rereading these great biblical texts frequently, remembering them, praying with them, trying to to make them meat. They will make us well, they will make us genuinely happy" (n. 109).

Text published in:, 21-V-2018

The authorRamiro Pellitero

Degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Santiago de Compostela. Professor of Ecclesiology and Pastoral Theology in the Department of Systematic Theology at the University of Navarra.

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