Climbing the Mountain of God by Way of the Valley of Humility

Excerpt from Take Time for Him: Simple, Soulful Gospel Meditations to Ignite the Busy Person’s Spiritual Life  Get your own papercopy from Amazon!

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Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy All Saints Day

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 5:1-12a

Mountains make us think of God. Their height, their beauty, and their majesty inspire a sense of our smallness, and of God’s greatness. Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to encounter God.

When the LORD had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant, the stone tablets inscribed by God’s own finger. (Exodus 31:18)

He prayed and fasted for 40 days and nights, during which God spoke to Him “face to face, as a person speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). To form His People in wisdom, justice, and peace, God gave to Moses the Law, written by God’s own hand.

After this encounter, Moses’ face radiated such glory that Aaron and the other Israelites feared being near to him; so much so that Moses had to wear a veil over his face when in their presence (Ex 34:29-34).

Moses’ relationship with God and the immediacy of God’s interaction with him was unparalleled. At the end of Moses’ life however, he prophesied that God would one day send a New Moses.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kindred, and will put my words into the mouth of the prophet; the prophet shall tell them all that I command.  (Deuteronomy 18:18)

Jesus ascended the Mount as the New Moses when He taught the Beatitudes. Christ affirmed the Law given to Moses, but he extended it further to its fullness intended by God. Through Moses, God had liberated the Jews from physical slavery and reformed their outward actions through the wisdom of the 10 Commandments. Through His Son, God now liberated His people from spiritual slavery to sin and, empowered by grace, directed them to conversion of interior intentions and desires.  As He set about the task of establishing the eternal Kingdom of God, the Beatitudes mark the fullness of God’s rule for His People – one of authentic love for God and one another.

The best teachers use examples to illustrate their lessons. The beatitudes are the heart of the New Law, but their application can be obscure. On All Saints Day the Church recognizes the lives of the saints throughout history to remember those concrete examples of how to live the beatitudes and apply them.  Saints, those who have been fully transformed in Christ, have come from every age, place, and walk of life. You can find examples of nearly every type of personality, spirituality, vocation, and occupation.

One such saint, St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), asserted that we ascend the mountain of God, by way of descending the valley of humility. She was a young, cloistered Carmelite nun in France who pursued sainthood by doing small things with great love; a theme St. Mother Teresa (1910-1997) took as inspiration in her own life. Through the humility and simplicity of Thérèse’s life, she lived the beatitudes in the confines of her small world, but God raised her up as a Doctor of the Church and her Story of a Soul gained worldwide readership after her death.

Using Thérèse ’s analogy of descending the mountain, let’s consider each beatitude as steps on the journey of sanctification.  The first step, poverty in spirit, establishes right relationship with God by recognizing one’s creatureliness and dependency. The poor in spirit surrender the illusion of self-sufficiency and accept their dependence on God as His creature and His child.

How often have you experienced the frustration of wanting to help someone, but they refused to be receptive to your advice or your aid? Common obstacles to accepting dependence on God stem from a desire for security located in things we think we can control – such as wealth, career, relationships, status, self-help, etc. If we cling to a desire to redeem ourselves, we will resist the mercy of our only Redeemer. The poor in spirit have hit rock bottom, they are in the valley.  Regardless of their wealth or accomplishments, they are keenly aware that only God can heal their wounds, release them from self- destructive addictions or thoughts, and provide them with security which isn’t dependent on the market, the weather, what other people think of them, or even their employer.

Once a person looks to God, who is full of mercy, whose Son demonstrated His sacrificial love, they are moved to sorrow. This sorrow wells up from an honest view of themselves and their sins – free of the rationalizations and false beliefs they had clung to in the past. They see sin for what it is: degrading, a trick they fell for, and ingratitude.

Having shed false pretentions about oneself, a person develops a beautiful authenticity which is characterized by meekness. Meekness is not weakness! Meekness means a person has greater compassion and patience toward others because they know that “but for the grace of God, there go I.” In consequence, surrender to God, gratitude for His mercy and comfort, and humble authenticity, causes one to bear much more fruit in their life and work.

As gratitude for God’s love, and experiential knowledge of the wisdom of His ways increases, a person begins to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  They desire even greater freedom and deeper joy, which they know with deep conviction, can only be found in Christ. This is a prayer to which God always says yes.

The joy of freedom in Christ’s love creates so much gratitude that it spills over in a person’s heart and they can’t help wanting to give back to Christ the kindness He has shown to them. Thus, they show mercy to others because they empathize with the struggle of sin and desire to follow the example of Christ who has shown them mercy in their weakness.

Union with Christ in the Beatific Vision is the essence of Heaven. Thus, those that have forsaken all for Him, whose heart is pure, begin to experience a taste of the vision of God. Reconciled to God through His son, they extend this peace to others as it radiates from their own interior peace from union with the Lord.

Finally, the more perfect a union one has with Christ, the more others will treat that person the same way they would of Him. Jesus warned His apostles that those of the world who persecute Him, will persecute them; and those that love Him, will love them (John 15:18-25). Thus, Christ ends the Beatitudes with the summation of the spiritual life – when one is persecuted because of Christ, they ought to rejoice, because it means they are finally living in union with Him and following in His example. In a sense, it’s confirmation that one is conformed to Christ. Others wouldn’t bother with you if you were worldly enough to leave their consciences undisturbed.

Jesus provides the Way by teaching us the Beatitudes and showing us how to follow them by His example.  Moreover, He provides the supernatural grace, virtues, and love we need to live such a profoundly spiritual life and the examples of the Saints to illustrate how it looks in everyday life.

The world offers countless distractions to discourage us from introspection, and our own pride can further resist taking an honest look inside our hearts. Christ exhorts us to bravely journey within, promising to accompany us and to conform what we find to His own perfect love.  If we descend the valley of humility through poverty in spirit, we will ascend the mountain of God and enjoy the beatific view from the top.

Consider:

  • Have you ever seen a mountain up close or hiked up one?  How did it affect your perspective?
  • Consider the immanence of God – His revelation to Moses and His revelation through Christ. In what way does His closeness make you somewhat afraid, like the Israelites? In what way, does it comfort or strengthen you to have Him so near?
  • God continues to dwell with us in an immanent way in the Eucharist. Consider how it has pleased God in every age, to draw near to us. In what ways, do you appreciate His gift? In what ways, do you sometimes take it for granted? How might you increase your appreciation?
  • Consider the spiritual journey laid out by the beatitudes. How does your spiritual life correspond to some of the stages?
  • Which beatitude touches you the most? Is there one that sticks out to you as the most moving?
  • How has your love for God grown through the years as a response of gratitude for His grace at work in your soul. What do you know is His work and not your own?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Reflect on one beatitude each day this week and try to live it out in an intentional way.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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