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.
We 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.
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.
From The Connections:
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.
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.
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. ***** 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
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
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
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
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
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?”
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
myself, my unspoken words were answered.
I am, among men, most
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: