Blessedness through virtue – An introduction to our new series of reflections for Lent, inspired by the Beatitudes
Lent is with us again. Though sometimes we are not very sure what this time is all about, somewhere in our hearts we hear the call to take it seriously, to find a meaningful way of preparing for the great Easter celebrations.
‘The Lenten message is to prepare hearts to change the world‘ said Mons Giovanni del Toso a few weeks ago as he presented the Pope’s message for Lent. And what better instrument to change our hearts than the prayerful listening to the Word of God?
The Beatitudes fill us with both hope and dread at the same time: hope for the sublime message they carry, which we find so appealing, the idea that the road to blessedness is a heart open to God and others; yet we feel dread because we discover ourselves so far from their spirit.
The Beatitudes address some of our biggest questions in ways that contradict our normal perceptions: they promise us blessedness – or as some translations put it, happiness. Yet, it intrigues us that not only the poor in spirit, the meek or the merciful are pronounced blessed, but also those who suffer and those who are persecuted.
The reflections on the Beatitudes (a new one will be published every few days throughout Lent) will alternate with similar reflections on a number of virtues. Virtues are those good habits, dispositions or attitudes that make us good persons. In our pluralistic world there is a growing interest in virtues, for while it is becoming more and more difficult to agree on what is right and wrong, we still share a common vision on what makes a good person: we still value a person who has integrity, truthfulness, generosity, humility. The Gospel tells us that a good tree bears good fruit, so that a good person spontaneously makes the right choices – if we wish to make the right choices we need to grow in virtue.
In today’s first reading the prophet Joel invites us to turn to God with all our hearts, avoiding mediocrity and seeking to grow in our friendship with God. This is true beatitude, and we look forward to travelling this road together during the weeks of Lent.