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Pastor's Letter 20200202 - 02 February 2020 - Humility

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A Message from Father Michael

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Today’s Theme:  “Humility” 

Scripture Note

Our Liturgy of the Word begins today with a reading that holds out hope and salvation for those who seek integrity and humility in the same way as a person would seek treasure, or a shepherd would seek lost sheep (Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13.)  In this way, they will live with ethical principles, in accord with God’s Law.  As a result, they hope to be worthy of eternal salvation.

Paul’s message to reminds us that God chooses the poor, the weak and the lowly people, who are conscious of their limitations, and who rely on God rather than on themselves (1 Corinthians 1:26-31.)  The wealthy new Christians in Corinth would routinely host the Eucharistic Meal in their homes, and Paul chides them to also include those less fortunate among their ranks—in a truly communal manner—staying true to the intention of our Blessed Lord at the Last Supper.  

 The Sermon on the Mount contains the essence of Christ’s teaching (Matthew 5:1-12.)  "The Beatitudes" list the qualities Christ wishes to see in His followers, qualities exemplified in His own life.  (The Latin, beatitudo,” means a feeling of supreme happiness, a state of bliss…in effect, “to be joyful.”)  A mere glance shows them to be a complete reversal of conventional standards and values. In nine simple how-to steps, Jesus lays out how we can find that harmony with God. Nothing fancy, nothing obscure, just “Christianity for Dummies*” a shortcut for folks intimidated by the vast canon of our beliefs. The words come not from a Church Father or a theologian, but right from the heart of Jesus, cutting through any confusion or reluctance.  Jesus tells us: “IF you want to follow me--IF You want to be a Christian--here’s how to do it.” 

(*Referencing Wiley Publishing’s tremendously successful book series,  whose intention is to pare away everything but the “essentials” from a given subject.)       

Deciphering the Beatitudes 

The word for “blessed” has two Scriptural meanings: The “blessed one" is described as the recipient of divine favor, and secondly, as one who is “happy,” or “fortunate.” Jesus combined both these meanings in the Beatitudes, giving us a “roadmap” to help us find not only happiness, but also the blessing and grace of God in our lives.   How jarring the Beatitudes must have seemed to the people of Jesus’ day—and they retain their curiosity even today for modern readers.  One might naturally ask, “How can the poor and the meek, the merciful and pure in heart, even the persecuted, consider themselves ‘happy?’”  Wouldn’t a person naturally recoil from such a description? This is precisely why Jesus’ words can be so challenging.  Reality is not always what we see directly in front of us!

Sampling from this far-from-secret formula for happiness, the first Beatitude is: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (v. 3.)  "Right out of the box," Jesus takes on the bane of humanity, the source of original sin and subsequently most of the world’s mischief--the mighty "I am…the poor little me…the ego run wild…the gimme—I deserve it”-attitude of human pride in all its perverse permutations. If you think that you are of such importance that you deserve the kingdom of heaven, you’d better guess again. If you think your powerful intellect is the arbiter of right and wrong, you’re in big trouble. Humility is the only highway to heaven. We must do what Christ says; do what He does. He is God’s love in the world—here on earth, in total submission to the will of the Father. He is poor in spirit—unassuming, reaching out to the powerless, despised and broken. He’s not “slumming,” nor “sampling the local color.” He’s teaching us. This is His life.  It must be ours, if we would follow Him…all the way home to the Kingdom of Heaven.

 Jumping ahead in Christ’s instructions, all the way to the last Beatitude, we have: “Blessed are you when people reproach you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (v. 11.)  At the outset, Jesus lets us know that following Him won’t be a “day at the beach.”  Yes, we will have the joyful serenity of living in God’s love, but everyone is not going to be thrilled by that idea. If you purport to live by the Beatitudes, you can expect lots and lots of “push back.” The proud, the greedy, the lustful, the angry will never be content to let us humbly pursue our salvation in peace. Christian virtue is a window into what Jesus told us is God’s will. It “takes the fun” from those “delicious” vices. Actively or passively, a follower of Jesus must expect to be marginalized, reviled and persecuted. But know too, that when you are abused you are blessed: “For great is your reward in heaven.  For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (v. 12.) 

Jesus had nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:20,) and was often misunderstood and treated with suspicion. Yet He was the most peaceful and joyful Man to ever walk the earth. The reason was because He treasured His Father’s presence and His commands above all else.  Jesus had learned that those who entrust themselves to God will never be disappointed, and He invited His disciples to experience this blessing for themselves.  He invites us all to become like Him: poor in spirit; meek; merciful; hungering after righteousness; and pure in heart.  And, ever true to His promises, He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us, and empower us to follow this path.  His life within us will always bring us true happiness.  When He described the rewards of such a life, Jesus used the future tense, because He wanted to extend our vision beyond our earthly life to the kingdom He had come to inaugurate. We willbe comforted; we willbe satisfied; we willobtain mercy; and we will see God.  By faithfully answering God’s invitation to participate in His divine nature on earth (Jesus,) we are sure to receive untold blessings in the life to come. 

 The Beatitudes require that we reorientour thinking.  The Beatitudes are the “badges” of a disciple of Christ.  They make us rich in the sight of God, opening our minds and hearts to a new way of seeing and judging life.  They give us a new set of bearings.  The Life God offers may seem too costly, at first.  We may think we are too weak to accept it.  We may not want to embrace a life that seems so demanding.  With eyes of faith, however, we can trust in Jesus’ promises. A person living according to the Beatitudes is already living in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Eternal life will merely be the full blossoming of a plant that is green with life. Our life in Christ will bring blessings to ourselves as well as others here on earth, and even greater blessings in heaven.

Are You Blessed?

We shouldn't be too quick to answer.  What first seems like a blessing–winning the Powerball Sweepstakes, to put it in the extreme–may prove to be your demise.  And what seems like a stroke of bad luck–losing your job, for example–may turn out to be a blessing, if it leads you to your true calling in life.

 An old Oriental parable may offer a perspective:  A young man asked his father for a horse.  All of his friends had horses.  He wanted one, too.  But his father said no.  Feeling dejected, he went for a walk out in the woods.  Suddenly, a beautiful mare appeared out of nowhere.  It was strong and gentle and easy to ride.  He rode it back to the village and told his father, “Look father!  This horse came to me.  What a blessing!”  The father replied, “You never know; it could be a curse.”  Sure enough, the boy was riding his new horse with his friends when the horse shied and threw him to the ground, breaking his leg.  The friends carried him back to the village, and he told his father, “You were right; it was a curse, after all.”  The father replied, “You never know; it could be a blessing.”  One day a neighboring tribe declared war on his village.  Every able-bodied man was expected to fight.  But because he had a broken leg, the boy was exempt.  He told his father, “You were right; turns out it was a blessing.”  

That which constitutes a blessing depends solely on the circumstances of the moment.  Something which perhaps "appears to be a blessing" can be our undoing, whereas what "appears to be misfortunate" sometimes can be a blessing in disguise.

May God Richly Bless You!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

Blessed Is He.docx

Blessed Is He.mp3

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