Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Beatitudes, Part Five

The Beatitudes are among the most lofty—and often perplexing—teachings given to us by Christ, and one book I’ve been reading is an excellent study from a social perspective; The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes, by Rev. Gerald Vann, O.P., and I’m posting some quotes from it as well as commentary from the Douay Rheims with the Haydock Commentary, and The Navarre Bible, Matthew.

This is the fifth beatitude.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Rev. Haydock says:

“Ver. 7. Not only the giving of alms, but the practice of all works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, are recommended here, and the reward will be given on that day when God will repay every one according to his works, and will do by us, as we have done by our brethren. (Haydock)”

The Navarre says:

“7. Mercy is not just a matter of giving alms to the poor but also of being understanding of other people’s defects, overlooking them, helping them cope with them and loving them despite whatever defects they may have. Being merciful also means rejoicing and suffering with other people.”

Rev. Vann says:

“In this fifth beatitude we are given a yet more emphatic repudiation of the policy of the ivory tower. We are all involved in the life of the family, and all responsible for it: we have, as we have seen, a duty towards it in justice; but justice is not enough. And indeed, once you accept the idea that the race of man is God’s family and yours, the fact that justice is not enough becomes obvious: who could imagine a happy family life based exclusively on justice? St. Thomas remarks that “some withdraw themselves from works of mercy lest they be involved in other people’s misery; most of us would have to plead guilty to doing just this at some time or another—“I simply cannot go and see that poor old woman; it makes me miserable for the rest of the day”—but it is clearly the denial of the whole substance of family life. And our Lord is quite definite: it is not by doing this that we shall find happiness, but by doing exactly the contrary, by being merciful. Why? The first reason is already stated: only by being merciful can you live in the family, and only by living the life of the family can you be fully alive.

“But there is a second reason. St. Thomas has a further remark, which at first sight may seem somewhat arbitrary: this beatitude, he says, is connected with the gift of counsel, which concerns the choice of means to attain the desired end, and which, therefore, particularly concerns “those things which are most useful to the end, namely, mercy.” And why is mercy thus singled out above all other good qualities? Surely because it is the greatest possible repudiation of the kingdom of Mammon, at the farthest possible remove from the selfish struggle for my rights, my pleasure, my comfort, my privacy. Mercy is in those who have already learnt to think and to will in terms of the family.” (pp. 148-149)