How to Take a Daily Moral Inventory in Light of the Beatitudes (Part 2)

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In part one of this series, Mark L. details how the first three Beatitudes can help us in our recovery and spiritual lives

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

This Beatitude suggests we must actively pursue God and seek His presence in the day ahead. A desire for righteousness is a sincere longing to recognize Jesus in all those we encounter throughout the day. Our relationship with God cannot be limited to “He and I” but must manifest in love and service to others. It is a desire to please God in all we think, say, and do, especially in regard to how we view and treat all of His children. 

The recovering addict is always called to service—even the newcomer. This Beatitude in particular requires a commitment to daily and ongoing prayer. Unless we try to integrate prayer throughout our day, it will be difficult to be the face of Jesus for others and to see Him in them. The recovering addict will often have a skewed understanding of “righteousness,” mistaking it for a transaction of being rewarded with sobriety if he always does “the next right thing” and follows his 12-step program. While these are good desires, they do not guarantee sobriety.

We can only reasonably expect “progress, not perfection.” The pursuit of righteousness will always involve giving service to others, so a daily inventory should include an assessment of how we have been of service to others, both in and out of recovery. How have we met the needs of those around us today? How we answer that question is a good indicator of where we stand with regard to righteousness.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

This Beatitude can present a particular challenge to many recovering people because we often struggle with letting go of resentments and tend to “keep score” with regard to grievances we have experienced. We may have been harmed by our family of origin, experienced abuse of multiple varieties, and survived childhoods that seemed to set us up for our addictions, compulsions, and unhealthy attachments. Holding resentments and withholding forgiveness may have become a pattern that emerged as a protective response to shield us from further harm. 

But in recovery this becomes a burden that hinders our progress and fosters anger and bitterness. The difficult truth regarding extending mercy to others is the knowledge that we, too, have caused harm and suffering for others and cannot deny our need for forgiveness and mercy from God and those we have hurt. In our daily inventory, we can examine the opportunities that arise where mercy and forgiveness are called for and how we responded that day to the need others have for us to forgive or let go of resentments and hurt. It can be as simple as forgiving someone for cutting us off in traffic or it may be a friendly gesture to someone who causes us discomfort or who we don’t particularly like.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

This Beatitude offers the unfathomable possibility that in this life we can experience an intimacy with God that is usually presumed to only be possible for great saints. Jesus hints at the means by which we can receive the gift of purity of heart when He speaks of the need for us to “turn and become like children” (Matthew 18:3). A return to innocence while reclaiming our identity as a beloved child of God the Father is a notion that may seem remote to the recovering addict who has most likely seen and done many things for which he feels a great deal of shame, guilt, and regret. 

Yet implied in the expression “recovering addict” is the truth that God has the power to restore us and recover what was abandoned, destroyed, or lost. Purity of heart is what we are progressing toward as we work the Steps and our program of recovery because we are trusting God to recover what we are unable to on our own. Thus, a daily inventory assessing our “purity of heart” is really a check-in to see what we did to actively participate in our program work and/or service to others each day. It is in these efforts that God restores—recovers—us and purifies our hearts so we seek Him like children. In doing so, we open ourselves to the possibility of reclaiming our identity as a beloved son or daughter of God our divine father. Understanding and fully accepting that we are His sons and daughters is knowing (“seeing”) Him.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

This Beatitude can seemingly pose some challenges for recovering people when we consider the importance of setting boundaries and limits for ourselves and for others. At face value, it might appear that being a peacemaker requires acquiescence to any and all opposition in order to resolve conflict at any cost. This is not what Jesus means, and we know this because He “clashed” with more than a few people in His day, and a resolution (“peace”) was not always achieved. 

The peace we are seeking and called to bring to others is the peace of Christ; that is, our reconciliation with Him that we live out in our lives and bring to others. For Catholics in recovery, there is a perfect word for the peace to which Jesus is referring: serenity. Our 12-step program and our Catholic spiritual path lead us to a peace that lives within us despite whatever is going on around us. It is not contingent upon any and all conflicts being resolved and settled. In this regard, our daily inventory for this Beatitude will most likely include an assessment of whether or not we have set aside time in the day for silence, reflection, and prayer. Rooted in those practices are the seeds of peace that will flourish within and then spread to all we encounter as we grow in our faith and recovery lives.

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

This Beatitude speaks to the perseverance required of the recovering addict in the pursuit of sobriety and serenity through the Steps, which culminates in serving others. Likewise, the Catholic spiritual path demands a discipline of various spiritual practices and an acceptance of the doctrines and teachings of the Church that may at times be unpalatable and difficult. Ultimately, this living faith, too, culminates in service and evangelization. And it may bring about opposition and strife. For the Catholic in recovery, submission to God includes submission to the teaching authority of His church.

There are many societal and cultural norms that conflict with both principles of recovery and Catholic practices. We live in a society that is saturated with messages that encourage self-absorption and self-indulgence. Striving to live a life of recovery that denies the self and practicing the Faith both will be met at times with opposition, ridicule, and perhaps even negative consequences in our social and work lives. Seeking a righteous path may manifest in our day as opportunities to speak up on behalf of the marginalized rather than go along with the prevailing, popular opinion. It may mean “outing” ourselves as a recovering person in order to serve a greater good. It may mean speaking up in defense of our Faith or the Church. These opportunities may arise at any time, and our perseverance in our program and commitment to our Faith practice will ready us for those opportunities. A daily inventory to assess our persistence in applying, living, and working the Steps will give an indication of whether we can withstand the opposition that comes from people, places, and things that seek to weaken our resolve and facilitate temptation and resignation.

The Beatitudes offer the Catholic in recovery ideals to aspire and strive toward. The beauty of their structure is the surface-level “simplicity” of them that hold deep truths that call us to action while offering us compassion and reassurance. From the mouth of Jesus—the Living Word—come deep and profound calls to love and to serve along with the assurance of His blessing for our efforts.

For the recovering Catholic addict, the imitation of Christ flows from the shaping of our thoughts, words, and deeds when we respond to the Beatitudes and actively seek their fruition on a daily basis. Our daily inventory, measured by our response to the Beatitudes, provides an assessment of our progress in recovery and growth in our Catholic spirituality.

Mark L. is a recovering alcoholic and sex and love addict. He lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and started a CIR General Recovery meeting at St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. He has a particular devotion to St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, martyr and opioid addict.