by Father Mark Goldasich
When hearing the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” most Catholics would immediately recognize them as the opening to the Beatitudes.
They might not be able to tell you exactly where to find them in the Bible — they’re from the Gospel of Matthew (5: 3-12) — but they’d know them as part of the Sermon on the Mount. Some sharp folks might even know that there’s a second set of similar Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Luke (6: 20-26), known as the Sermon on the Plain: “Blest are you poor; the reign of God is yours.”
What is probably not well-known is that there’s a third set of Beatitudes recently “discovered” and shared with the world by a man named John Stowell. Incidentally, you won’t find this last set in the Scriptures, because these are known as “The Devil’s Beatitudes.” Here’s what they sound like:
“Blessed are those who are too tired, busy or disorganized to meet with fellow Christians on Sundays each week. They are my best workers.
Blessed are those who enjoy noticing the mannerisms of clergy and choir. Their hearts are not in it.
Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked. I can use them.
Blessed are the touchy. With a bit of luck they may even stop going to church. They are my missionaries.
Blessed are those who claim to love God at the same time as hating other people. They are mine forever.
Blessed are the troublemakers. They shall be called my children.
Blessed are those who have no time to pray. They are easy prey for me.
Blessed are you when you read this and think it is about other people and not about yourself. . . . I’ve got you!” (Found in Anthony Castle’s “More Quips, Quotes & Anecdotes for Preachers and Teachers.”)
Whoa! I don’t know about you, but I was sailing along with the first seven “Beatitudes” above. In fact, I could even attach names and faces to each one. Then I hit that last “Beatitude,” and it stopped me in my tracks.
And that’s good, because it’s what the end of the Easter season is all about. The days between the ascension of the Lord and the celebration of Pentecost (on June 12 this year) are meant to be a special time of prayer and reflection, a time to open our hearts to a deeper outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and a time to look at possibilities: ways that we can grow in our faith, hope and love.
Often, though, we forget that our faith is something living, something dynamic. Instead, it can become stagnant, routine, and boring. Pentecost offers us renewed energy for our faith; it wakes us up to God’s power at work in our hearts and in our world.
Regular readers of this column know that I wage a constant battle with procrastination. Recently, I came across a tip in Real Simple magazine that has already paid big dividends: Restart your day at 2 p.m. Although I’m good at formulating a to-do list every morning, many times the day gets away from me with various “distractions.” The temptation is to get to the afternoon, see all the untouched items on my to-do list, sigh, throw up my hands in defeat . . . and put off everything until “tomorrow.”
Restarting my day at 2 p.m. prevents this procrastinating tendency. I review my to-do list in the afternoon, reevaluate the important things that need to be done and get to work on them. In some sense, I “reboot” my day. Just as rebooting your computer resets it to its default settings, so rebooting your day can reset you into a productive frame of mind.
Perhaps we can view Pentecost as a yearly rebooting of our faith. It’s so easy to wander far from loving God, neighbor and self, even after all the spiritual progress that we made during Lent. The joy and promise that we felt on Easter may have faded over the seven weeks of this season. The relaxation of summer may tempt us to take a vacation from our faith. Pentecost can help us get back to our default setting: to see our faith as something vibrant that brings fulfillment, peace and perspective to our lives.
A great way to reboot our faith is by reading. Summer is a time when many people pack up a novel for beach reading. Why not also include some heavenly reading, something of substance, on your list?
In my stack of summer books to read are these three (one per month) that promise gifts of knowledge and practicality:
• “28 Different Ways to Pray” (Paulist Press, 2011; 142 pgs.; $12.95)
• Mary DeTurris Poust’s “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass” (Alpha Books, 2011; 314 pgs.; $16.95)
• “22 Steps to a Great Catholic Parish,” by Jim Reinhardt (Twenty-Third Publications, 2010; 272 pgs.; $19.95)
Remember: If your “Beatitude” needs adjusting — and whose doesn’t — a Pentecost reboot should do the trick.