(CNA) The eight beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount reveal the path from selfishness to holiness, Pope Francis said at his general audience Wednesday.
Speaking via livestream due to the coronavirus crisis, the pope said April 29: “The path of the Beatitudes is an Easter journey that leads from a life according to the world to a life according to God, from an existence guided by the flesh -- that is, by selfishness -- to one guided by the Spirit.”
In his address from the library of the apostolic palace, the pope concluded his cycle of catechesis on the beatitudes.
He said that the eighth beatitude, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10), was intimately connected to the first, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
“This beatitude announces the same happiness as the first: the kingdom of heaven is for the persecuted just as it is for the poor in spirit,” he said. “We understand that we have arrived at the end of a unified path set out in the previous proclamations.”
Those who follow the path of the beatitudes soon find themselves in conflict with the world, the pope noted. But they are blessed because “they have found something worth more than the whole world.”
“The world, with its idols, its compromises and its priorities, cannot approve of this kind of existence,” he said. So it dismisses life according to the Gospel “as an error and a problem, therefore as something to be marginalized.”
That is why the world has persecuted Christians throughout history, the pope observed.
“It is painful to remember that, at this moment, there are many Christians suffering persecution in various parts of the world, and we must hope and pray that as soon as possible their tribulation will be stopped,” he said.
He encouraged Catholics to express their solidarity with the persecuted, who he described as “bleeding members of the body of Christ which is the Church.”
The pope urged Christians to be careful not to read the eighth beatitude in a “self-pitying way.” Sometimes, he said, we arouse contempt because we have drifted away from the Gospel, rather than because we are witnessing to it.
He said: “In fact, the contempt of men is not always synonymous with persecution: just a little later Jesus says that Christians are the ‘salt of the earth,’ and warns against ‘losing the taste,’ otherwise salt ‘serves no other purpose than to be thrown away and trampled underfoot’ (Matthew 5:13). Therefore, there is also a contempt that is our fault when we lose the taste of Christ and the Gospel.”
In off-the-cuff remarks at the end of his address, the pope said: “In persecutions there is always the presence of Jesus who accompanies us, the presence of Jesus who consoles us and the strength of the Spirit who helps us to move forward.”
“Let us not be discouraged when a life consistent with the Gospel attracts people's persecutions: there is the Spirit that sustains us on this road.”