The Beatitudes offer a “new program of life” and demand a discipleship through which people today can open themselves up to what is truly good, Pope Benedict XVI explained during his traditional noon audience on Sunday.
On a pleasant and mild winter morning in Rome, thousands of young people were in St. Peter's Square with Italy's Catholic Action association to mark the end of their annual initiative for peace in the month of January.
Their singing and dancing entertained the crowd until the Pope arrived in his studio window for the Angelus prayer.
His pre-Angelus message centered on what he called the “Gospel of the Beatitudes,” Jesus' first major address to the people in the hills around the Sea of Galilee.
From the mountain, Jesus “proclaims ‘blessed’ the poor in spirit, the afflicted, the merciful, all those who hunger for justice, the pure of heart, the persecuted,” recalled the Pope.
This was not a “new ideology,” but “a teaching that comes from on high and touches the human condition,” which Jesus himself assumed to save it, said Benedict XVI.
The Sermon on the Mount is directed to people in all ages “and yet it demands discipleship and can be understood and lived out only by following Jesus and accompanying him on his journey,” he explained.
“The beatitudes are the new program of life, to free ourselves from the false values of the world and open ourselves to the true good, present and future.
“When, in fact, God consoles,” said the Pope, “he satiates the hunger of justice, dries the tears of the afflicted.” This consolation rewards every person in a sensitive way and “opens the Kingdom of Heaven.”
In the eight Beatitudes, Jesus’ death and resurrection are translated into an ever-current “discipleship,” in which his persecution for man's salvation is mirrored in people's lives, said the Pope.
The Beatitudes have historically been connected to the sanctity of Christians, because, in St. Paul’s words, “God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something,” he explained.
“For this, the Church does not fear poverty, disdain and persecution in a society often attracted to material well-being and worldly power.”
In St. Augustine's words, the Church does not revel in suffering, “but endures it in the name of Jesus, not only with a serene soul, but also with joy,” he said.
The Pope concluded the message with a prayer for “the strength to seek the Lord and follow him forever, with joy, on the way of the Beatitudes.”
After the Angelus prayer, one of two young people from Catholic Action alongside Pope Benedict promised the prayers and commitment of youth for peace.
The pontiff himself invited all people to pray that the Lord "bring minds and hearts together for concrete projects for peace."
He also remembered the celebration of World Leprosy Day, assuring all those who suffer from the disease of his prayers. He wished “serenity and prosperity” to “those grand peoples” of the Far East for their Feb. 3 Lunar New Year festivities.
Before retiring once again to his apartment, as a sign of peace the Pope released a pair of white doves with the help of the two young people from Catholic Action.