Bishop says the Beatitudes are a good guide for Lenten observance


What does Jesus really mean when he says, “Take up your cross daily and follow me?”

Bishop W. Shawn Mc­Knight believes the Beatitudes (found in Matthew 5 and Luke 6) are a great place to start.

“It’s not about status,” he emphasized on Ash Wednesday. “It’s about true service. It’s about truly embracing the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bishop McKnight offered Mass for diocesan Chancery employees on Ash Wednesday, in the chapel of the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center. 

He noted in his homily that the Beatitudes — Blessed are the poor in spirit ... those who mourn ... those who are meek ... those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... those who are merciful ... those who are clean of heart ... the peacemakers ... those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness ... and those who endure insults falsely because of Jesus — are difficult.  

“They’re all elements of what it means to embrace the cross,” said Bishop Mc­Knight. “They are the doorways through which we enter into the Kingdom.”

He recommended a book called Eight Doors to the Kingdom, by Jacques Philippe.

“That book shows us what the Beatitudes are, and what it means to embrace the cross of our Lord,” said Bishop Mc­Knight.

The bishop pointed out that the first three weeks of Lent are structured around daily readings from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

These readings offer clear guidance on preparing to renew one’s Baptismal Promises at Easter.

“We are confronted and challenged by the Gospel teachings about the very things that we’re supposed to be doing,” said Bishop Mc­Knight.

“The theme (of these readings) is more moral and ethical and pertaining to our discipleship as followers of the Master, who taught us that we must take up our cross daily and follow after him,” the bishop noted.

The Scriptures are clear: no one does a good job of keeping all of God’s commandments.

Fortunately, said Bishop McKnight, discipleship is much less about following rules than entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That becomes clear in the readings for the second half of Lent — which is known as Passiontide.

In those weeks, the daily readings are from John’s Gospel.

“They focus directly upon who Jesus is — the one who saves us,” said Bishop Mc­Knight, “and the fact that he died for us in order to save us.”

Prayer and penance have been an important part of Lent since the early days of the Church.

That is, the right kind of penance. Jesus is clear that these things should be focused on God, not on providing a spectacle for others.

“The takeaway from today’s Gospel reading is this: that our relationship with Jesus Christ — as dignified as we are as members of the Baptized! — is not a matter of status but a matter of responsibility and service,” the bishop noted.

This is validated by Jesus in his proclamation of the Beatitudes.

“So, let this be a season of penance, a season of growing closer to the Lord, a season of embracing the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ daily in our lives,” said Bishop McKnight.

“Let it be a season of the Beatitudes for us!”