IN the 1940s Spain lay sorely ravaged by the civil war which pitted literally “brother against brother” when the republicans under the banner of socialism bitterly fought against Franco’s falangistas who rallied under the motto: “Por Dios y por la patria,” (For God and the fatherland). At the end of the epic struggle, homes and lives by the hundred thousands were wasted.
The once proud and mighty empire lay shattered and poor—Europe’s basket case. But amid their poverty and misery the noble Spanish people kept their faith brought to them by their patron saint: Santiago Apostol, whose mortal remains are buried in the grand basilica at Compostela. Gradually their faith enabled the Spaniards to rise and regain their rightful place in the family of nations.
When the Lord preached about the beatitudes, he surely did not say being hungry or poor or miserable is good in itself. Nor does the Lord present it a virtue in being looked down by our neighbors and rejected by friends. On the contrary, the Lord admonished people to care for the forgotten poor when he promised that those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and clothe the naked will receive rewards that will be “out of this world.” We have to remember that a number of his friends, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea for example, were relatively well off.
The point our Lord tries to drive home very forcefully in the beatitudes is to fix our attention on what is really important. And this is to trust God, not anything or anybody else.
Moreover, trust in Him translates to loving Him, and we do so by keeping the commandments, especially the commandment to love others. To do so would liken us to a tree planted by the life-giving waters of a river. To be on God’s side is what really matters.
My friend Tomas Lozano feels sad that the sudden affluence in Spain is not doing his country much good. He compares his people’s situation to a bus ride across the gorgeous regions of Castilla and the Rioja; however, the passengers keep the shades drawn down while they watch DVDs on the monitor. He is pained to have a president who while preaching progress, views the Church as an enemy of the people while another high-ranking official openly preaches and practices same-sex union. Like Cicero of old, Tomas sighs, “O tempora, o mores” (O times, o morals.)
When he visited Duljo and Pardo and saw hundreds of young pupils streaming from the schools and as he watched the youngsters merrily shouting at each other as they eagerly trekked home, Tomas sighed, “Your country is truly blessed with so many promising lives.” For such is the kingdom of heaven. Such is the promise of God’s love.
“And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.” Luke 6: 20-21.