On the Mountain
The beatitudes are proclaimed by Jesus on the Mountain as an introduction to His long speech in the fifth chapter of Matthew's Gospel:
«When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain and sat down. His disciples came to Him and He began to teach them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven (Mt 5:1-12).
The site is rugged, hard, harsh and cold. To proclaim the Beatitudes Jesus chooses neither the intimate interior of a home, nor a public square, theater, or the evocative beauty of a beach, not even the authority and majesty of the Temple! No. He rather chooses the bare rock of a mountain! If we really want to hear His voice (and not fickle rumors or distant echoes), we must let go of formalities, conformity, protocols, unofficial formal and inauthentic rigidity (yet, perhaps for this reason, reassuring) in order to join Him on the Mountain.
The first step to take to understand the Beatitudes is the desire to go up the Mountain. Not for a day trip or for amusement. In fact, Jesus does not go only on weekends or during His free time! We are compelled to stop the normal rhythm of our lives, to divert, to commit an act of folly, and to take risks. Our neighbor, friend, son, parent, wife or husband will ask “But where are you going?” Our reply should be, “I’m going up the Mountain to listen to Jesus!” Who knows how many discouraging remarks will be thrown at us! Blessedness begins with a change of perspective, a turning point, a continual detachment from what surrounds us or assails us. But if we're fine where we are, and if our habits are so dear to us we will never go on the mountain.
However, the fundamental virtue for making the choice to climb the mountain is trust, trust in Jesus. A fondness for discomfort and the hardness of stone, its coldness, the fatigue it requires, the sacrifices and perseverance can not be an end in itself. All this energy has value only if we spend it for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ if we trust Jesus, His promise, and the fact that His word is the stone and most solid matter upon which to build our spiritual home, as He himself reminds us at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” As Jesus himself reminds Luisa in the Book of Heaven, faith without trust is nothing. In fact, if faith makes trust known, trust makes us find faith (Book of Heaven VI, July 29, 1904). One thing is to know that Jesus is on the mountain, another is to go and find Him there.
What have we come to know?
Often, people are wont to refer to someone as "blessed" to highlight a condition of acquired happiness: "Blessed is he that ...", "Blessed are you that ...”. The beatitudes that we are used to, however, are very different from those proposed by Jesus! We say blessed are the rich, because their future is guaranteed, blessed is he who laughs because he does not know suffering, blessed is the violent person because he is powerful and does what he wants, blessed are the clever and the unjust because they know the way to success, blessed is the lustful because he is free and fully enjoys the pleasures of life, blessed is the vengeful person because he obtains honor, blessed are the persecutors because they will gain the favor of the powerful and earn rewards, etc. The consciousness of worldly blessedness is based on envy: lucky him, because he has what I don’t.
But Jesus completely turns this way of life upside down. He not only asks us to climb the mountain on a weekday, to struggle in order to meet Him in such an unusual place, to sit on stone, to appear as frivolous, annoying and romantic idealists in the mood for a one-of-a-kind vacation, but affirms that true blessedness belongs to those who are poor, suffering, meek, chaste, thirsting for justice, merciful, peacemakers, and persecuted! All people who are failures. Those who today are considered as failures are those that Jesus calls blessed or to which He paves the way to blessedness. He asks us to recognize ourselves as failures, to be such … This is too much! It is certainly a message beyond reason.
Our society (which aside from what we might think we like as it is, otherwise it would be different) does not propose the Beatitudes of the Gospel to the destitute or the defeated, but offers three possibilities: to become bad and get away with illegal means, to destroy one’s true identity by tirelessly searching for therapies to come up with one that works, ready for any compromise with one’s own conscience, or to remain excluded and die in darkness. Jesus teaches that in the condition of being last a person can find the first treasure – acknowledging one’s own nothingness, a blessed state. And so, blessed are the poor in spirit who know and live this condition by renouncing self-love, blessed are those who mourn and who know pain and deprivation, blessed are the meek who respond to the abuser or to offenses with patience and long-suffering, blessed are the merciful who do not take revenge but become the object of wickedness, blessed are the pure in heart for they consider the other as an end and never a means causing scandal, blessed are the peacemakers who live in defeat and whose voice is never heard, blessed are the those who thirst for justice enduring injustice without committing any, blessed are the persecuted for justice’s sake and in the name of Christ, who are the stones rejected by the world and the cornerstones.
Jesus does not suggest a formula for happiness. He is not one of those who like today roam around selling false promises in order to win acclaim. He is not a dispenser of utopias of easy and immediate consumption. He is the Truth and His word is final, eternal and above all teaches. As Pope Francis says, the Beatitudes are the portrait of Jesus, His way of life; they are the fulfillment of the Law of the Ten Commandments, the fundamental criteria for a Christian life which our consciousness must constantly measure up against (cfr. Audience of Wednesday, August 6, 2014). In the Beatitudes Jesus therefore reveals over all else a state of existence, a state which is destined to come to completion in a future and transcendent dimension of divine origin, fruit of the Divine Will; earthly "blessedness", instead, is based on present, ephemeral and transient pleasure. It is the expression of the human will that separates us from the Creator and the purpose for which we were created, leading us to perdition. The evangelical beatitude is a forthcoming and eternal state (in fact, Jesus uses the future tense), while earthly beatitude is a present and transient state. Even the Virgin Mary in the Magnificat affirms that future generations shall call her "blessed", she the Mother of God, Queen of Saints (which allows us to add that Beatitude interacts with the past and therefore has a public and not merely private, intimate dimension; a dimension that takes into account the moral judgment of history, as the example of Luisa shows, who for obedience’s sake has made public all her blessed spiritual intimacy. And we, as the future generations, will work and pray for her to be proclaimed beatified). So we must choose: to obtain the "reward in heaven" of evangelical blessedness it is necessary to be deprived of the other deadly reward on earth.
From the hardness and heaviness of stone we can discover the true lightness of life, which is that of the Spirit whose specific weight is infinitely small! By freeing ourselves from the burdens of earthiness, vices, and charms, from the miseries that make our bodies a prison in which our spirit is buried, we can finally free ourselves and soar lightly, walking on the waters of our soul tamed and purified. But in order to walk on water and reach Jesus who invites us to "come", one must dismiss all trepidation, especially fear and mistrust (which perhaps still filled the soul of St. Peter when he wanted to meet the Master on the water and sank) and live on love and Divine Will (Book of Heaven XXXIII, May 26, 1935). This then is the conclusion (or perhaps the true beginning): only the soul who gives priority to love can understand the state of blessedness, because love is so connected to the Divine Will in a filial relationship as to lead directly to It. And thus the Divine Will, constantly operating interiorly, extends Its sojourn of peace within the soul (Book of Heaven XXXIII, May 26, 1935).
O steep stone soaring high
teeming with flights and souls blessed,
how many do not know of your miracles
and believe that a sweet casing
hides greater sweetness but are left dismayed?
Maybe inside the stone is lightness
that walks upon waters …