Dear Brothers and Sisters in Saint Lazarus,
While we prepare to celebrate Christmas and remember the coming of Jesus, the only Saviour of the world, Advent helps us create a mood for the arrival of salvation, a conveyor for consolation full of lasting happiness.

During these difficult times in which we live, with an uncertainty about the future, full of restlessness in the face of widespread social insecurity, we need Christ to fulfill the many expectations of justice, before the Lord. He will judge us by the love we show to others, and we cannot live a frantic and banal life full of dissipations that distract us and fill us with alienating evasions, of sterile actions and useless discussions.

The coming of Christ requires a continuous and joyful vigil. Advent is a time of joy because every coming of Christ is a gift of grace.  It is also a time of commitment that impels us to live the present with responsibility.

During this period I invite all the members of the Order of Saint Lazarus to meditate over the evangelical beatitudes, which are for each of us a challenge that raises various questions.

Are the beatitudes the credentials for those who still call themselves Christians, or are they words that despite having the charm of beauty and the scent of poetry, belong to the great utopia of Jesus Christ who has not, unfortunately, changed the world?

Can these be practiced by only a few or are they a part of humanity's heritage, are they valid for the future life or even for the present?

On a political level, Bismarck said that one can’t govern with the speech of the mountain.

In modern times, it took a non-Christian like Mahatma Gandhi to define the Beatitudes as "the highest words of human thought", showing their accuracy in these circumstances of modern life and criticizing the interpretation of “right-thinking” Christians who emphasized the impossibility of practicing them.

Happiness remains our deepest aspiration and our most bitter delusion, not being able to completely satisfy the craving.

The Beatitudes offer us a humanization proposal to our stressed, disenchanted and indifferent generation.  They provide a meaning for our daily life and offer us prospects of hope for an open future to eternity.

The promises of Jesus in the Beatitudes find the first realization in this world. Their content is settled on the edge of “the now, but not yet”. Through them Jesus makes us understand that the happiness that God promised begins here but will have its full accomplishment in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The prototype of man and humanity described in the Beatitudes corresponds to Christ Himself: He is the truly poor in spirit, suffering, mild, merciful, pure of heart, the essence of peace, insulted, persecuted. The beatitudes are Christ’s life itself, and He was the perfect example of them.

For this reason, observing them is very important for all of us.

For all time, and therefore also in ours, the beatitudes trace on the one hand the true self-portrait of Christ, on the other hand, they communicate to us Christians, as to each person, a series of conditions in which to experience happiness, as "perfect joy".

The Beatitudes continue to exert fascination because they do not establish new commandments, but send out the good news that God promises full happiness to those who show love for their neighbor.

They renew the nostalgia of a new world made of goodness, mercy, humbleness without violence and without lies, of poverty full of trust in God.

The Beatitudes contain a paradoxical and revolutionary message: The people defeated according to the world are considered by Jesus as the true victors, called to bear witness to a profound joy, even in adversity.

We Christians of the twenty-first century must still feel challenged by the provocative reproach of Friedrich Nietzsche: "The Christians should sing me better songs for me to learn to believe their "redeemer"; joyful his disciples seem to me!"

In these days we are called to let the stark question resound for each and every one of us, cleric or layman: Is it possible to live the evangelical beatitudes here and now, in our personal life as in the social one?


Monreale, 2 December 2018

Msgr. Michele Pennisi

Archbishop of Monreale

Ecclesiastical Grand Prior of the Military and Hospital Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem

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