Friday, November 2, 2007

Straight Talk on the Beatitudes

Heaven in Our Hands: Receiving the Blessings We Long For
Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

My friend Susan lent me this book. As happens sometimes with those books that are given because "you'll really like it" this one languished in my book stack for some time. I would glance through it and always be pulled away by some newer book, something more "a la minute" than this seemingly simple take on the beatitudes. In fact, the very simplicity was not appealing. Hadn't I heard all this stuff before? Yes, but when will I ever learn not to take things at face value?

When I finally picked this up to "blast through" it so that I could return it, I discovered that the straightforward simplicity hid things I needed to hear. Things we all need to hear. Father Benedict Groeschel has a real talent for expounding on a subject with examples and angles that show us the subject from a new light. He also has a talent for tossing in little laughs here and there along the way that make this most readable as well. All in all, one winds up reexamining a subject that was thought to be well understood. No matter how simply written about, that is something to be valued.

In fact, this is one of the more successful books that Tom and I have read together every evening. We have just begun but it has provided food for thought and conversation between the two of us that "deeper" thinkers such as C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft have failed to do. In short, this hits both Tom and me where we live spiritually and practically. Believe me when I say that we are very different in our approaches to our faith life and for a book to do that means it has a wide appeal.

Highly recommended.

Oh, and Susan? I'm going to be hanging onto this for a little longer.
[On the subject of mercy]

What if you suspect that someone might be abusing your charity? Decide once and for all not to let it bother you in the least, and then live by that conclusion. Better to take the chance of being cheated than to neglect mercy. Merciless people never have to worry about being cheated; they just don't help anybody. Foolish people, on the other hand, help everybody! Those who decide to be merciful in an intelligent way should probably expect about a 12 to 15 percent loss on their investment. This is the amount I figure will inevitably go to charlatans or crooks or people who could be helping themselves a bit more than they are. ...

I suspect that a great many people would like to be merciful but are unsure of how to begin and afraid of being cheated. My advice is: take stock of your limited resources -- time, money, mercy -- and decide what to do with them. Then just try it! And if you're afraid of being cheated, cheer up. You've already been cheated by lots of other people besides the poor: the federal government, many prominent corporations, most financial institutions, and perhaps even some religious organizations!

... Having been cheated regularl.y and repeatedly by these very respectable people, you've managed to live with it. And you've probably lost much more to the government than you're ever going to lose to somebody who needs mercy. In short, the fear of being cheated is not a legitimate reason to avoid practicing mercy.

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