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6 Sunday C: Happy Are you --- Beatitudes


Gospel reading  Luke 6:17, 20-26

Michel DeVerteuil 
General comments
On this Sunday and the next, the gospel readings are extracts from St. Luke’s account of the “sermon on the mount” which in his gospel should really be called the “sermon on the plain.
Jesus “fixes his eyes” on us so that we can get to know him well and recognise his presence among us. His loving look is also a call to conversion so that we may be more like him.
“How happy are you who are poor!” This is not an abstract statement but a joyful exclamation at the greatness of the people he sees before him. It reminds us of another text which says that Jesus was “filled with joy by the Holy Spirit” as he contemplated the wisdom of the little ones to whom God had revealed things which he had hidden from the “learned and the clever”.
Jesus is so different from us. We tend to relate to the poor in a condescending way. Even when we love them we do it pityingly, we call them “disadvantaged” or “less fortunate than ourselves,” we want to “do things for them”, even to “pray for them.”
Right through his life Jesus did the opposite. In the presence of those his society considered poor – the “little ones,” “sinners”, “tax-collectors and prostitutes” – he felt inspired, was filled with awe, and he told them so. “Yours is the kingdom of God,” means that they are the ones who have the wisdom and the courage to make the kingdom a reality in the world.
We now see why St Luke says that Jesus “stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering”. He didn’t want to talk down to people; he would “cure them of their diseases” by conversing with them at their level, entering into the greatness he saw in the midst of their poverty, hunger and tears.
He knew that like many poor people, they tended to look up to the ruling elites, the superstars of his time, with awe, perhaps with some envy, so he urged them not to be intimidated by their shallowness and false values. They must remain true to their own values and then their hunger would be satisfied and their weeping would become laughter and celebration.
There are “great crowds of people” in our country, who need to be cured of many diseases – lack of self-confidence, fear of failure, narrow-mindedness. Not many are willing to do like Jesus, leave their homes and air-conditioned offices and come down to the level ground to “fix their eyes on them”, converse with them, enter into their greatness and their wisdom. Some pretend to do it, but not sincerely. They praise the poor but secretly look down on them, utter platitudes and do not “exclaim” from the heart as Jesus does in this passage. A real challenge for us who are parents, community workers, teachers, church ministers.
St Luke says that Jesus’ disciples were “gathered with the crowd.” That is our church, a community of ordinary people, needing healing like the rest of humanity, “sharing the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor and afflicted” (Second Vatican Council).
Scripture Reflection Prayer
Lord, we thank you for Jesus and people like him who come down and stop at a piece of level ground, where we and a great crowd of people are gathered looking for a word of compassion and to be cured of our diseases. We thank you for those who re-assure us that we are not bad, that the kingdom of God is in our hands, and even though right now we feel hunger, and weep bitter tears, we can be confident of the future.
faith changes everythingWe thank you for our ancestors in this country, grandparents, mothers and fathers, who taught us how to rejoice and dance for joy even when people look down on us, drive us out, abuse us, denounce our names as criminals.
Send the same Spirit of Wisdom on the many people in our society who are very rich, but that is all the consolation they have, who seem to have their fill but are very hungry, who outwardly are laughing but when you get to know them are mourning and weeping, who are well spoken of by the world but are false prophets in fact. 
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 Donal Neary S.J. : Gospel reflections
Feeling Peace  – at the centre of the Beatitudes
On one of my first visits to a Jesuit house, I felt a huge peace – maybe the beginning of a vocation. In bereavement there can be a moment of peace, which seems to come from nowhere: peace of being totally loved by a good friend or spouse, peace, just peace with the children.
There is a peace that comes from faith and love and that is prayer: peace that comes from knowing I am heard, understood and loved.
There is a huge need for listening now, for knowing that people care in our world of suicides, addictions to alcohol. We can feel we live in an impersonal world of anxiety and isolation. We need the peace of honest conversation and openness, and the peace of being forgiven.
Peace is not evading difficulty. You are mad worried about  a child – somewhere in the middle, like gold in the mud, you find the peace of knowing God’s love for you and for him or her. That needs time and a bit of prayer.
It is good to sit each day in silence. Allow this peace to get into you. Breathe in and out, just saying the word peace. That is God’s gift to you. There is also a peace from God in doing good and doing the right thing. Jesus knew it was the best gift he could give. It comes from love. Back to my first visit that day – what caused the peace? I don’t know fully. We can be surprised when we will be graced with the peace o Jesus Christ which the world cannot give.
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From The Connections:
THE WORD:
In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of “Beatitudes,” but in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus drops a series of bombshells.  He takes the accepted standards of the times and turns them upside down:  To those who are considered the “haves” of society, Jesus warns “Woe to you!” – wealth and power are not the stuff of the kingdom of God; but to the “have nots,” Jesus says, “Happy and blessed are you” – love, humble selflessness, compassion and generosity are the treasure of God's realm.  Jesus promises his followers poverty, suffering, persecuting and grief -- but their hope in God will be rewarded with perfect and complete joy.
This will be a constant theme throughout Luke’s Gospel: Jesus teaches that wealth and power are not the stuff of the reign of God, but humility, selflessness and compassion are the treasures of God’s kingdom.

HOMILY POINTS:
In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus challenges us to put aside the “woe” of self-centeredness and embrace the “blessedness” that can only be experienced by seeing ourselves not as the center of the world but as a means for transforming the world for the “blessedness” of all. 
Luke's version of the Beatitudes challenges everything our consumer-oriented society holds dear.  While wealth, power and celebrity are the sought-after prizes of our world, the treasures of God's reign are love, humble selflessness, compassion and generosity.  In freeing ourselves from the pursuit of the things of this world, we liberate ourselves to seek the lasting things of God.

Elusive perfection
Two old friends are catching up over drinks at a sidewalk cafe.
“How is that you haven't yet married?” one friend asks the other.
“To be perfectly honest,” the friend begins, “I must tell you that I have spent years looking for the perfect woman.  In Barcelona, I met a very beautiful and extremely intelligent woman and, for a brief time, I thought I had found the ideal spouse.  But soon I discovered that she was terribly vain and conceited. 
“Then, in Boston, I met a woman who was outgoing and generous.  Here is the perfect woman, I thought.  But soon I discovered that she was flighty and irresponsible.
“I had just about given up on ever meeting the perfect woman until, one day in Montreal, I met her.  She was incredible!  She was beautiful, intelligent, kind, generous and had a wonderful sense of humor.  She was perfect.”
“So why didn't you marry her?” his friend asked.
Fingering his glass, the man replied quietly, “Because she was looking for the perfect man.”

In Luke's Sermon on the Plain, Jesus challenges everything our me-first, consumer-oriented, market-driven, bottom-line-centered society holds dear:  Humility, selflessness and compassion, not wealth and power, are the treasures of the city of God.  Today's Gospel challenges us to embrace a new vision, a new attitude in approaching life: to seek the common good before our own needs, to bring compassion and forgiveness to others despite our own anger and humiliation, to free ourselves from the pursuit of the things of this world in order to seek the lasting things of God.   
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From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: Happiness Myths:
Dr. Harold Treffert is the director of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin. In an article entitled “The American Fairy Tale,” he discusses five dangerous ideas we have about the meaning of happiness. First, happiness is things. The more you accumulate and have, the happier you will be. Second, happiness is what you do. The more you produce and earn, the happier you will be. Third, happiness is being the same as others. The more you are fashionable and conform with the times, the happier you will be. Fourth, happiness is mental health. The fewer problems you have and the more carefree you are, the happier you will be. Fifth, happiness is communicating with electronic gadgets. The more you can communicate with a television set, a satellite or a computer, the happier you will be. According to Dr. Treffert, these five myths about happiness are the cause of many mental health problems today. If happiness cannot be found through these five myths of “The American Fairy Tale,” then where do we find it? Jesus gives us the answer when he outlines the beatitudes in today’s reading from Luke. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds)  

2: “Don’t you believe the Bible?
Sometime before she died, someone had the audacity to ask St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), “Why do you spend so much energy on the poor, the hungry, and the weeping of those in Calcutta?” She responded, “Jesus says the poor are the blessed ones. I take him at his word. I treat them as the royalty of God’s kingdom, because they are.” To grow into becoming a Christian is, in no small part, to be converted into seeing the world as God sees it. It is to be given new eyes to look upon people and events from an eternally loving perspective. When that begins to happen, you begin to see that God has an opinion about how life should be lived, what Churches should be doing, and how people should act. You begin to see that the future belongs to those whom God blesses. They include the poor, the hungry, the hopeless, the damaged, and those whose only salvation is found in the God who comes to redeem.

3: Beatitude in puppy’s tail:
Said a puppy to his old uncle dog, “From my short experience in life I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness and that happiness is in my tail. That is why I am chasing my tail, and when I catch it, I shall have perfect happiness.” The old dog replied, “From my research and long experience, I too, have judged that happiness is a fine thing for a dog and that happiness is in his tail. But I’ve noticed that whenever I chase it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business, it comes after me.” (Here are the examples of three famous women who chased happiness as the puppy did, in the wrong places, and met with tragic ends: 1) Anna Nicole Smith (39)-model, cover girl, actress – sought happiness in drugs. 2) Marilyn Monroe (36)- actress, American idol, model- who did the same in 1962, and 3) Princess Diana of England (36) who met with accidental death on her way to seeking happiness in the wrong place). What is our picture of a happy life? According to one study conducted in the U. S. only 20% of Americans claim to be happy.  Is the “American dream” our picture of the happy life: the ideal of owning a beautiful home with a two-car garage, having a loving and adjusting spouse, two well-behaved kids, and a dog, enjoying a decent job, and having enough money to enjoy leisure and retired life? Where do we go in search of happiness: the movie theater, the amusement park, a hiking trail, a shopping mall, a good restaurant, a ballpark? In the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew, and in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke from which we read today, Jesus gives us a rather different picture of a happy life. Jesus tells us that we can find true and lasting happiness in ways we may never have considered.

4: Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God:
This is taken from the national archives of the letters of pure-hearted kids to their pastors proving how pure they are in heart: Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody, but He never met my sister. Yours sincerely, Arnold. Age 8, Nashville. Dear Pastor, please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson. Sincerely, Pete. Age 9, Phoenix. Dear Pastor, my father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something. Robert Anderson, age 11. Dear Pastor, I’m sorry I can’t leave more money in the plate, but my father didn’t give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance? Love, Patty. Age 10, New Haven. Dear Pastor, My mother is very religious. She goes to play Bingo at Church every week even if she has a cold. Yours truly, Annette. Age 9, Albany. Dear Pastor, I would like to go to Heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there. Stephen. Age 8, Chicago. Dear Pastor, I think a lot more people would come to your Church if you moved it to Disneyland. Loreen. Age 9. Tacoma. Dear Pastor, Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God’s help or a new pitcher. Thank you, Alexander. Age 10, Raleigh. Dear Pastor, My father says I should learn the Ten Commandments. But I don’t think I want to because we have enough rules already in my house. Joshua. Age 10, South Pasadena. Dear Pastor, who does God pray to? Is there a God for God? Sincerely, Christopher. Age 9, Titusville. Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class. Carla. Age 10, Salina. Dear Pastor, How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers? Sincerely, Marie. Age 9, Lewiston

5) Blessed are the peace makers:
 Choice of Weapons:   Little Johnny came home from the playground with a bloody nose, black eye, and torn clothing. It was obvious he’d been in a bad fight and lost. While his father was patching him up, he asked his son what happened. “Well, Dad,” said Johnny, “I challenged Larry to a duel. And, you know, I gave him his choice of weapons.” “Uh-huh,” said the father, “that seems fair.” “I know, but I never thought he’d choose his big sister!”

6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: Religious Holidays: An atheist complained to a friend, “Christians have their special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter; and Jews celebrate their holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur; Muslims have their holidays. EVERY religion has its holidays.  But we atheists,” he said, “have no recognized national holidays.  It’s an unfair discrimination.”  His friend replied, “Well,…why don’t you celebrate April first?”

25- Additional anecdotes

1) Two different points of view on happiness: The “Dear Abby” Column once received a letter from a 15-year-old girl which read as follows: Dear Abby: Happiness is not having your parents scold you if you come home late, having your own bedroom, and getting the telephone call you’ve been hoping for. Happiness is belonging to a popular group, being dressed as well as anybody, and having a lot of spending money. Happiness is something I don’t have. “15 and Unhappy.” Shortly after the letter was published, “Dear Abby” received a reply from 13-year-old girl who wrote: Dear Abby: Happiness is being able to walk and talk, to see and hear. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a 15-year-old girl who can do all four things and still says she isn’t happy, I can talk, I can see, I can hear. But I can’t walk. “13, crippled and Happy.” These letters reflect two different points of view on happiness. Today’s Gospel on the beatitudes does the same. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds’).
2) The attitude that beatifies: There was a farmer. He lived a happy life spending most of the time taking care of his farm with the aid of his horse. One day he lost his horse. Neighbors came to sympathize with him. “What a shame”, they said. “Who knows? God Knows!” He replied. A week later this horse returned with another horse. The neighbors came to share his joy. “What a blessing”, they said. “Who knows? God knows!” he replied. One day while riding the horse his son fell down from the horse and broke his leg. Again neighbors came to offer their sympathy. “What a shame”, they said. “Who knows? God knows!” he replied. A week late a war broke out in their country. The king ordered all men over 18 years of age to join the military. They spared his son because of his broken leg. Once again neighbors rushed to his house. “What a blessing?” they said. “Who knows? God Knows!” the farmer replied. (SV)

3) Is there anybody who is really happy? According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States “in 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 and older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.” Three years ago, 45,000 American people were unhappy enough to snuff out their own existence. Statistics suggest that your lifetime 15 million people in this country will attempt to end their lives. And the suicide rate is increasing the fastest among young people nearly 300 percent among those 15 to 24 in the last twenty years. Is there anybody who is really happy?

4) “Happiness on easy monthly terms.” An ad appeared recently in USA TODAY for the BMW automobile. The ad begins like this: “Needless to say, you can’t buy happiness. But for a mere $299 a month, you can lease exhilaration. Simply visit your authorized BMW dealer before September 30 and lease a new BMW 325…” After extolling the virtues of the BMW, the ad concludes like this: “For a program of spiritual uplift on easy monthly terms, we recommend you visit a participating BMW dealer.” I like that: “a program of spiritual uplift on easy monthly terms.”

5) Eight laws of public health: Some years ago, a panel of doctors was appointed by the Federal government to meet together and draw up eight laws of public health that could be printed in pamphlet form and distributed to the public. After twelve days of exhaustive meetings, the doctors were unable to come to a consensus. It seems that their areas of concern were too diverse: one was a cancer specialist, one a cardiologist, one a psychiatrist, and they all approached the problem from their own discipline. The chest expert was concerned about coal dust from the mines and lint from textile mills, while the psychiatrist was concerned about the effects of urban stress. Finally, Dr. Harold Sladen from a Hospital in Detroit came up with an appropriate idea. He said: “Let’s just republish the Eight Beatitudes of Jesus and simply replace the word Blessed with the word Healthy!”

6) Living the beatitudes: In the last century, a Belgian priest named Father Damien went to live on a remote island colony among people with leprosy. Father Damien tried to live the values of the beatitudes. He was pure in heart, merciful, hungry and thirsty for righteousness. He was publicly persecuted for doing what he believed was right. His biographers also say he was often lonely, depressed, and stubborn. His immediate superiors branded him a troublemaker. (Gavan Daws, Holy Man (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), p. 249) The Catholic Church had to wait a long time before it canonized him (named a saint), in 2010. But people who knew Father Damien called him “happy” or “blessed.”

7) Happiness is found in purposeful living: In his book, Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins tells a revealing story about Pablo Casals, the great cellist. Cousins describes meeting Casals shortly before his ninetieth birthday. It was almost painful for Cousins to watch the old man dress. Arthritis, emphysema, the frailty of advanced years had taken their toll. The hands swollen, the fingers clenched how could a man in such condition ever hope to play his beloved music again. And yet, even before eating, Casals made his way slowly and with much difficulty to his piano. There a miracle took place right before Norman Cousins’ eyes. As he describes it, “The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward sunlight. [Casals’] back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely.” He began with a number by Bach which he played with sensitivity and control that would have been the envy of a young and agile pianist. He then launched into a Brahms concerto, and his fingers seemed to race above the keyboard. “His entire body seemed fused with music,” Cousins wrote. “It was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed from its arthritic coils.” By the time he walked away from the piano he seemed to be an entirely different person from the tired old man who struggled out of bed and into his clothes. He stood straighter and taller. He immediately walked to the breakfast table, ate heartily, and then went out for a stroll on the beach. “The sense of uselessness,” said Thomas Huxley, “is the severest shock which our system can sustain.” Conversely, when we have a great purpose to live for, a purpose that is high and noble, our whole being is enhanced. That is the first conclusion about happiness which we can derive from these teachings of our Lord. Happiness is found in giving ourselves to a high and noble purpose.

8) Is anyone in this world truly happy? Samuel Johnson once wrote a novel entitled Rasselas in which the main character, an Abyssinian prince, lived on a mountaintop in peace and luxury, but he became dissatisfied with his walled in existence and finally ventured out into the world to search for those persons who are altogether happy. To his surprise he discovered that no such person exists in the world. He returned disillusioned to his home in Abyssinia. Is anyone in this world truly happy?

9) “Really happy and was still in their right mind?” There was a Peanuts cartoon years ago in which Lucy asked Charlie Brown if he has ever known anybody who was really happy. Before she could finish her sentence, however, Snoopy came dancing on tiptoe into the frame, his nose high in the air. He danced and bounced his way across two frames of the cartoon strip. Finally, in the last frame, Lucy finished her sentence, “Have you ever known anybody who was really happy and was still in their right mind?”

10) Declaration of Independence: On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, approved Richard Henry Lee’s motion that the thirteen colonies in North America declare their independence from Great Britain and from the rule of King George III. On that July 4, celebrated now as Independence Day, the Congress approved the Declaration. Since then, human history has been punctuated with many such declarations of independence. Over 40 countries on the continent of Africa, more than a dozen newly independent republics in the former Soviet Union, several areas in Eastern Europe and conflicting ethnic groups with differing ideologies in many countries have engaged in civil wars and declared their political independence from those who had controlled them. The clamor for independence can be heard everywhere, from Hong Kong in the east to the Basque country in the west. Independence, self-rule and the prerogative of determining one’s own direction, goals and priorities have perennial appeal for most human beings. But, as is often the case, the readings for today’s liturgy invite us to consider a different perspective. The inspired authors of today’s readings, Jeremiah, Paul and Luke, make a motion, as it were, a motion that each of us should consider making a Declaration of Dependence on God, to receive our true blessing.

11) Battle of Gettysburg: Frederick Buechner tells about watching a scene in the Ken Burns film series on the Civil War. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and veterans from North and South gathered at the battleground to reminisce. At one point, the veterans decided to reenact Pickett’s Charge. All the participants took their positions, and then one side began to charge the other. Instead of swords and rifles, this time the vets carried canes and crutches. As both sides converged, the old men did not fight. Instead they embraced and began to weep. Buechner muses, “If only those doddering old veterans had seen in 1863 what they now saw so clearly fifty years later.” Then he adds: Half a century later, they saw that the great battle had been a great madness. The men who were advancing toward them across the field of Gettysburg were not enemies. They were human beings like themselves, with the same dreams, needs, hopes, the same wives and children waiting for them to come home … What they saw was that we were, all of us, created not to do battle with each other but to love each other, and it was not just a truth they saw. For a few minutes, it was a truth they lived. It was a truth they became. (Frederick Buechner, “Journey Toward Wholeness,” Theology Today 49/4 (January 1993), pp. 454-464.).

12) “If only I had that, I would be happy.” Father Louis Everly, a noted Belgian theologian, priest and writer says that so many people never find happiness because they do not know where to look for it. Too many people make the mistake of seeking one more material thing, one more pay raise, one more promotion, one more problem solved, one more handicap overcome. “If only I had that,” they often say, “I would be happy.” Too late they learn that happiness does not come from the outside but from within. Howard Hughes was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived but he could not buy contentment or peace of mind. That is the first thing that is evident as we view the Beatitudes. Happiness is not synonymous with the pursuit of pleasure.

13) Satan’s Beatitudes: Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in Church – they are my best workers.
 Blessed are those who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – I can use them in my business.
 Blessed are those who are touchy. Soon they will stop going to Church – verily, they shall be my missionaries.
 Blessed are those who sow gossip and trouble – they are my beloved children.
 Blessed are those who have no time to pray – for they are MY prey.
 Blessed are those who gossip – for they are my secret agents.
 Blessed are you when you read this and think it has everything to do with other people, and nothing to do with you – I’ve got room for YOU at my inn.

14) Eight principles for the measure of a person. Some years ago, the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer published an article entitled: “How Do You Measure Up as a Man?” The article stated that some extensive research had been conducted on the 20th century standards for measuring a man. 1) His ability to make and conserve money. 2) The cost, style and age of his car. 3) How much hair he has. 4) His strength and size. 5) The job he holds and how successful he is at it. 6) What sports he likes. 7) How many clubs he belongs to. 8) His aggressiveness and reliability. Jesus Christ also once set down eight principles for the measure of a person. His standards stand in stark contrast to the aforementioned. There would appear to be a wide gulf between the popular image of the successful person and what God sees as the successful person.

15) Final happiness: I like the story of the preacher who met two little boys. After greeting them, he said, “Boys, would you like to go to Heaven?” “Yes, sir!” one responded immediately. “No, sir,” the other boy said honestly. Surprised by such honesty, the preacher asked, “Son, do you mean that eventually you don’t want to go to Heaven?” “I’d like to go eventually,” replied the boy, “but I thought you were getting up a load to go today.” For many people, happiness–like Heaven– is something that is going to come eventually, but it never quite arrives.

16) Beatitudes and the entrance ticket: An elderly man arrives at the pearly gates. St. Peter tells him that the entrance into Heaven requires 100 points and that points will be awarded on the basis of how one has lived on earth. “Well,” said the man proudly, “I was married to the same woman for 60 years and never was tempted to be unfaithful.” “Good, that’s one point” said Saint Peter. “Oh yes, and I served as lector and Eucharistic minister in my parish church, taught Sunday school for thirty years, and helped many missionaries.” “Good,” said Saint Peter, “that gives you three more points.” “Only three points for thirty years of faithful stewardship?” the man protested, “at this rate I won’t get into Heaven.   Don’t you give any points for the beatitudes I practiced in my life by the grace of God?”  “Well, fortunately,” came the reply, “that counts for 100 points!” “Come on in, good boy.”

17) “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you.” On the morning before Bill Clinton took the presidential oath of office, he went to a nearby Church for a prayer service. Someone read the beatitudes during the service. When the reader came to the last two verses, someone observed Mr. Clinton repeating the words of Jesus: 11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”  They were good words for a politician to say, particularly on the opening day of what turned out to be a rocky term of office. Any politician who tries to take an occasional stand for what is holy, just, and true can expect persecution, slander, and false accounts. The only reward may be a Heavenly one.

18) “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.” U. S. News and World Report carried some sobering statistics sometime back: People who starve to death each year: 11 million. Overweight U.S. adults: 34 million. As a nation we are getting more and more obese. 38 states now have adult obesity rates above 25%. In 1991 no state had an obesity rate above 20%. Average calories consumed daily, North Americans: 3500; Africans: 2100. People who are continually hungry: Ethiopia: 20%, Sudan: 20%, Mozambique: 30-40%, American adults currently on diets: 19% (3) We dare not grow callous to such discrepancies. If we do, then, “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

19) Live and enjoy the beatitudes: I love the story that is told of a factory that was having problems with employees stealing. The company hired a security firm to help with the problem. They had guards posted at all exits and they were to check each employee as they left for the day. They searched their clothing and lunch boxes to make sure they were not taking anything out. Every day one guy came by with a wheelbarrow full of junk. Every day they stopped him and plowed through all of the junk and garbage that was in the wheelbarrow. It took several minutes every day to search through the junk. Every day the same thing – nothing but junk in the wheelbarrow. Finally, the security person said, “Look, fellow, I know something is going on. Every day you come through here and all we find in the wheelbarrow is junk. If you promise to tell me exactly what is going on, I promise not to turn you in. Tell me what is going on.” The fellow grinned and said, “I’m stealing wheelbarrows.” That story has two truths that I want to leave with you: 1) Things may not always be what they seem to be, at least on the outside, and 2) Don’t go looking in junk and garbage for the most obvious answer to the meaning and essence of life. It’s found in God’s Word. It’s found in your heart. As you give your heart and life to Jesus Christ, as you center your entire existence around him, you will have the blissful joy and happiness, the beatitudes Jesus promised.

20) ) “Blessed are you who weep now” : On that tragic Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a New York City parish priest standing on the corner of 14th Street and 1st Avenue witnessed the first terrorist plane plunging into the Twin Towers. “I stood there in shock and disbelief,” says the priest. “Without fully comprehending what was happening, I walked into the Church and said the morning Mass.” Normally, about a hundred persons attend this weekday service. That morning there were several hundred. The Gospel reading for the day was, Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. “Even in the early moments of this world tragedy,” says the priest, “I wondered how these words of Christ could ever be true.”

21) Caution: contents may be hot: Buy a cup of coffee from any fast food restaurant and somewhere on the cup you will likely find these words, CAUTION: CONTENTS MAY BE HOT. What you need to wake you up can also scald your tongue. So beware, say the makers, and keep us all out of court. Something similar could be said about the Beatitudes of Jesus. These formulas for bliss are also bombshells for life. They are flashes of lightning across the landscape of our ordered lives. As William Barclay says, “The Beatitudes of Jesus turn standard values upside down.” So, now that you have been properly warned, here we go. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

22) “Are there any air bags on this plane?” During the last presidential election, you may have seen the comic strip “Frank and Earnest” where Frank is sitting on an airplane with a worried look on his face, and he asks the stewardess, “Are there any air bags on this plane?” She replies, “There are a couple of congressmen up in first class.” By the time the presidential election campaign wound down to its final hours, most of us were eagerly looking forward to a little relief from listening to the air bags. All those speeches that said nothing. All those hours of prime-time television advertising. Really the whole thing could have been carried out much more efficiently. Each of the candidates could have boiled down all their windy rhetoric to one simple slogan. President Obama, for instance, could have just gotten up in front of the television cameras and said, ” “Time for more changes.” Governor Romney would declare: “Taxes and trust.” Think of how much time and money and energy we could have all saved. It’s no wonder politics has such a bad name. The reality is, however, that there’s no part of life that is not concerned with politics. That is why Jesus used condensed ideas. “Congratulations you poor, for yours is the domain of God!” would get us much closer to the real spirit of Jesus’ words. “Congratulations you who are hungry now for your turn is coming to be filled! Congratulations you who weep now, for your time of laughter and joy is coming!”

23) Blessedness of giving: John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was a millionaire at age 23. At the age of fifty, he was a billionaire. He was the richest man in the world, but he was a miserable, rich man. At the age of 53, he was eaten up with physical diseases and ulcers. He was a grabber, not a giver. He was always trying to get more money and he was a greedy man. Greed had so consumed him, that at the age of 53, the doctors told him he had one year to live. Just one year. Here’s a billionaire, the richest man in the world, and all he could eat that year, all that his stomach could handle was milk and crackers. Milk and crackers. The man could go out and buy any restaurant in the world, buy it; he could have any food before him on the table, but it wouldn’t do him much good. It was in that year, that Rockefeller began to look at his life. He said, “I have all these possessions, and I’ve never been a giver.” That’s when he decided to become a giver. He gave to Churches, to hospitals, to foundations, and to medical research. Many of the discoveries we’ve had in medicine have come from money provided by the Rockefeller Foundation. That man who had only one year to live at age 53, began to live, and began to give, and do you know what happened to him? He started releasing all of the internal negative things that were killing him. He got rid of his stress, his tension, and his ulcers, and he lived to the age of ninety, a saint to many.

24)  Baseball player accepting tragedy as beatitude: Roy Campanella, the great baseball player, had two such road maps for his life. His successful stint as catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers was right on track, following the path he thought it should. Then, an automobile accident, which left him paralyzed and in a wheel chair, sidelined his career and proved to be a roadblock which also sidetracked his life’s journey. When he was forced to accept and follow the map which reality handed to him, he found strength in the following:

“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
 I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey . . .
 I asked for health, that I might do great things.
 I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. . .
 I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
 I was given poverty, that I might be wise. . .
 I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
 I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God. . .
 I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
 I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. . .
 I got nothing I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.
 Almost despite myself, my unspoken words were answered.
 I am, among men, most richly blessed.”

That Campanella was able to recognize the direction his life had taken as a blessing rather than a curse is indicative of a deep and solid Faith. In today’s Scripture readings, the community of believers is challenged to a similar Faith as it examines the blessedness of human need before God. (Sanchez Files). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Campanella

25) Beatitudes experienced and lived by saints: (Rev. Steven D. Greydanus) If we want to understand the way of the Beatitudes, we must look to Christ, but also to the saints, especially those saints who walk the way of smallness and humility — like St. Francis, the “little poor man of Assisi,” whose spiritual biography is called the Fioretti or Little Flowers; and of course the Little Flower herself, Therese of Lisieux, whose spirituality is called the “Little Way,” the little way of spiritual childhood. This is a way of trust and love: of loving confidence in God’s goodness in all circumstances; of deep awareness of our total dependence on Him for all things; of abandonment or surrender of ourselves, our lives, our fortunes, our future, to God’s providence. If we walk this way, we won’t be swayed by the temptations and appeals in the cultural waters around us — for example, to fear and anxiety. A culture that idolizes wealth and strength is a culture of fear and anxiety. We’ll see more of this later in the Sermon on the Mount. To trust in God is to put aside fear and anxiety. I leave you with the words of St. Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb you,
 Let nothing frighten you,
 All things are passing:
 God never changes.
 Patience obtains all things.
 Whoever has God lacks nothing;
 God alone suffices. (L-19)