Vatican City — Christians should memorize not only the Ten Commandments but also the beatitudes, which Jesus taught as the path to true happiness, Pope Francis said.
At his weekly general audience Wednesday, the pope said he was so serious about the need for Christians to know the text of the beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-12 -- "Blessed are the poor in spirit ..." -- that he would read each one out loud and have the crowd repeat it.
More than 6,000 people filled the Vatican audience hall and its atrium for the pope's first general audience after a monthlong break.
One repetition of the text of the beatitudes is not enough to "remember them and impress them on our hearts," the pope said, so he gave the crowd "homework," asking them to spend time in the coming days reading the text again, from the Bible "you always should have with you."
The beatitudes are not only "the path God indicates as his response to the desire for happiness present in each person and the perfection of the (Ten) Commandments," he said; they also are "a portrait of Jesus and his way of life."
In addition to showing people the path to true happiness, the pope said, Jesus gave "us the protocol according to which we will be judged."
"At the end of the world, we will be judged," he said. "And what will the questions be that the judge will ask?" They are listed in Matthew 25: 35-36: Did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner?
"Today, your task is to read the fifth chapter of Matthew where the beatitudes are, and also to read the 25th chapter where the questions are that we will be asked on judgment day," he said.
No one, he said, is so important or has done so many other virtuous things that he or she can escape being asked the questions in Matthew 25. "The Lord will recognize us if we have recognized his face in the face of the hungry, the poor, the marginalized, the sick and the lonely. These are fundamental criteria for verifying our Christian life."
"I read the beatitudes and think about how my life as a Christian should be," the pope said, "and then, I make an examination of conscience with this 25th chapter from Matthew. Every day I ask, 'Did I do this? Did I do that? That?' "
It is a simple thing to do, he said, and helps people look at the concrete actions in their lives.
Living according to the beatitudes and the criteria listed in Matthew 25, he said, should fill each Christian with joy because together "they make our Christian life a beautiful and credible witness to the love of God for all the brothers and sisters we meet each day."