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A Vulnerable and Open Heart

Fr. John Burger

From the Director

By Fr. John Burger

What makes a life a success in the grand scheme of things, that is, a success in God’s plan? Down through the centuries, the same message echoes: it is not through fame, power, strength, accomplishment, or acquiring a fortune that we make a success of our lives.

A look at the lives of the saints tells the story multiple times; a successful life is not about overcoming obstacles, circumstances or other people. It is about overcoming ourselves. The saints and other Christian heroes took their cues from these few lines in St. Matthew’s Gospel. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.”

These few phrases are not the church’s version of “best practices for happiness.” They come from Jesus’ heart. As we hear Jesus’ poetic words, it is too easy to say, “That is beyond me,” or “That is not the way the world works.” God focuses not on who we may think we are but on who we are called to be.

Being meek and poor in spirit are not about accomplishing great things, or acquiring much. They are about living life with a vulnerable and open heart. That does not mean we isolate ourselves from the realities of life in the world. It means we engage them in a different way, Jesus’ way. The beatitudes teach us trust in God rather than self-reliance. In today’s world that sounds a lot like weakness. Guess what? It sounds like foolishness in every age. 

God focuses not on who we may think we are but on who we are called to be.

Remember, God chose what is foolish to shame the wise and what is weak to shame the strong. The beatitudes are nothing less than the way of the cross, the fullest expression of a “life poured out.” In the trauma and setbacks of life we discover that we cannot do life by ourselves.

The arrogance of self-sufficiency is a form of pride that will only give way to meekness, lf we realize that all that we are and have is from God, we begin to live as poor in spirit.

Poverty or the indignities of illness connect us to the pain of the world for which we cannot help but mourn. The challenge is nevertheless to think less about ourselves and become more merciful to others. We have nowhere else to turn and so we turn our gaze back to God. The longer we gaze at God the more we hunger and thirst for righteousness. Reconciling ourselves to God and our neighbor, we become peacemakers. Christ’s disciples are sometimes even willing to be persecuted for a life of righteousness. It is the life for which Christ died and rose again.

To live the beatitudes is to live a life of reckless, exuberant, self-abandonment to God and our neighbor. Reckless, exuberant, self-surrender to God “who first loved us and gave himself up for us.”

Are you ready to make it your path to success?