Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In the above passage Jesus promises us happiness. In fact the word "blessed" means "happy." The Beatitudes are at the core of Christ's teaching. They fulfill the promise made to the Jewish people by pointing beyond earthly happiness to the eternal happiness of heaven. The reward promised in each of the Beatitudes is primarily heaven.
The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate purpose of human acts; God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith.
If we live according to this plan of Christ we shall have a foretaste of the happiness of heaven in this life. Christ tells us that we will be happy by doing for his sake the very things which we may think will make us unhappy. Christ tells us that we must not set our hearts on money, whereas many people appear to want even more money than they already have. Christ tells us that we must forgive our enemies and love them, whereas many people seem to want to "get even with" or at least avoid those who hurt them. Christ tells us that we must avoid all sin, that we must be willing to take a lower place, that we must suffer for him, etc. These are conditions which might seem to make us unhappy, but the Lord's words tell us otherwise.
On several occasions during the last election campaign the
relationship between the rich and the poor was referred to, also by
us apparently, without proper care. We have to accept that this is
so, now that one of our warmest friends, who is also from a
prominent family, has told us that our words had offended him on
more than one occasion. There is, of course, always the possibility
that the offense was in part taken rather than given, but when a
loyal brother tells us that he was "irritated and aggrieved," then
we are inclined for our part to seek the responsibility for this in
the thoughtlessness of our words, and to entreat the aggrieved and
irritated brother not to hold this terminological bumbling against
Happily, forgiveness is always easy among us Christians, and when issues arise there is always one authority to which we are prepared to surrender unconditionally from the outset: the authority of our Lord and Savior.
That being so, it seems to us desirable to examine the case in point somewhat more closely and to respond more thoroughly to the question concerning the position that Christ took regarding the contrast between the rich and the poor.
Even if some ill-considered words may have escaped my pen, in the main we endeavored to follow in the footsteps of him whose words and example are decisive in life and in death for all who love the Savior. Naturally, here, we too can go astray; we are obliged and prepared, also in this matter, to pay heed to the brotherly criticism of those who confess Christ with us. Yet even those brothers who declared themselves to be the most deeply aggrieved and terribly irritated will readily concede that we may not speak otherwise than according to the light that is given us by the spirit of Christ.
We value this reference to what Holy Scripture teaches us
concerning the contrast between the poor and the rich all the more
because from our first participation in public life and not just
now for the first time, we have always expressed ourselves in the
same spirit respecting the needy in society. Such is also the case
in connection with the Franchise Bill.
Yet we shall leave aside, for the moment at least, the question of electoral reform. What motives of the heart have moved many of our socially high-ranking Christians to adopt a different position in this matter from our own is not for us to judge. Only the Knower of hearts may be the judge here. Therefore, we will scrupulously avoid saying that any one of these brothers acted contrary to conscience in this matter.
The only thing that saddened us--and, if we may speak frankly, that aggrieved and irritated us in our turn--was that the attractiveness of this political logic drew many of our noble brothers, probably against their will, into a company in which to our mind, given their credentials of spiritual nobility, they did not belong. In this way, their influence at the time became a support for Conservatism, and even though we gladly assume that they neither intended nor willed this, they did not, as we see it, take sufficiently into account the virtually undeniable fact that their influence had perforce to tip the balance in favor of the status quo. Yet for the moment this can all rest.
What we need above all as Christians is that we go to God's Word; that we kneel at the cross of Christ with quiet reverence; and that we endeavor to arrive at complete agreement regarding how--from what standpoint and in what light--Christ would have us consider the vexing problem of the fearful contrast between the rich and the poor.
Even if we could not allow ourselves to hope that this exposition would bear fruit in bringing people to judge our position in a more sympathetic and brotherly spirit, it can never be without benefit to the readers of our paper that also with regard to this grave problem we counter the slogan of the revolution with the voice of the gospel
That being so, allow me, by way of introduction, to call attention to the crushing condemnation by Anatole Leroy Beaulieu in the March issue of Revue des deux mondes regarding the position adopted by Christians, contrary to the spirit of Christ, with respect to money and thus with respect to Mammon.
We may invoke this witness all the more because Leroy Beaulieu harbors no democratic sympathies but, to the contrary, warns against them. He at least cannot be suspected, as people suspect us, of harboring democratic leanings and invoking the gospel more strongly than is proper and permissible as we oppose the sinful and heaven-defying inequality in our earthly lots.
No one, so said Christ, can serve two
masters. You cannot serve God
and Mammon. Now, Mammon is wealth. Yet this splendid word from the
Sermon on the Mount is out of date today. Christians of our day
have arranged everything quite differently. There are 400 million
persons who have been baptized in the name of Jesus, but how many
of them show the slightest hesitation about serving Mammon? After
eighteen hundred years, Mammon has again become king of the world.
Those who are the most pious divide their time between serving God
and serving Mammon; it is not concern about their eternal treasures
that weighs most heavily upon them and oppresses them. In truth,
one might even imagine that it was said not of the rich but of the
poor that a camel might more easily pass through the eye of a
needle than that they should enter into the Kingdom of heaven. For
if Christians had truly understood and absorbed the ideas of their
Savior, they would not be out to make money but would much rather
be fearful of possessing too much.