1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. 6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. (Matthew 5:1-12)
“To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”
There are days when the Kingdom of God, the Reign of God seems like a marvelous idea that we wish we could trade in our current “state of things.” It just seems like an impossible idea.
I remember when I was young, my limited spiritual life revolved around worrying about whether or not I would go to heaven after I died. Even though I wasn’t too sure what heaven was like, I was scared to death of going to hell and wanted to avoid it at all costs. Fortunately, I came to learn (meaning this is what I was taught) that there were ways that I could manage this. If I could obey all of the rules – okay, most of the rules – and do a lot of extra devotional things like going to Confession, Mass and receiving Holy Communion on nine First Fridays of the month in a row, I would go straight to heaven. As a student in Catholic school, that was worked into the curriculum! This was gonna’ be easy.
And then I got older and slowly came to the realization that all the above was rather “quid pro quo” and almost seemed as though I could go before God and say, “Hey, I followed the rule, let me into heaven!”
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” I think the human condition is that we fall short on the “all”. And that raises the question “do we love someone or want something more than we love God?” Tough question. But think how much time, energy and emotion we spend on other things. Seems to me that time, energy, and emotion poured into a relationship will give you some inkling of the degree to which you are in love. Consider what part of your day and week you give over to God in terms of time, energy and emotion.
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Do we love someone or want something more than God? “Love more than God?” that doesn’t seem right, but then again, think how much time, energy and emotion we spend on other things. Seems to me that time, energy, and emotion into a relationship will give you some inkling of the degree to which you are in love. Take a minute and consider what part of your day and week you give over to God in terms of time, energy and emotion. Perhaps a simple measure of your being in love with God – or at least a way to think about it.
I am often given to repeating St. Bonaventure’s wise counsel: humility is the guardian and gateway to all the other virtues…and the first evidence of it is gratitude. We can all have moments in which we are profoundly grateful, but are we grateful people? The first is a description of a moment in time, deeply remembered; the second is an intrinsic condition of who you are as a person. It is at the root of your being, it is the lens through which you see the world, and it is the mode by which you engage the world. Even as I write that last sentence, I am thinking, “Gosh, I want to be that person!” Continue reading
Today’s gospel continues Jesus’ encounter with the religious leadership of his day.
“When you see (a) cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain—and so it does; 55 and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot—and so it is.
The illustration (vv.54-55) seems to point to the weather patterns in the Near East. The Mediterranean Sea was to the west and winds from that direction brought rain. The desert was to the south and winds from that direction brought heat. Continue reading
It is a quiet morning before the sunrise. I am getting used to the change of parish, locale, and of course weather. The autumnal days of Virginia in October are far different than those in the Tampa Bay region. Since Virginia is not a “swing state” for the upcoming elections, I am also getting used to being able to watch television without the bombardment of political ads. I am not sure what is more refreshing the lack of political ads or the autumnal days and nights.
I was reading the news online (from a variety of sources) and several of them reported that in the face of steeply rising coronavirus infections, increasing positivity rates and hospitalizations, and the decreasing level of available ICU beds,a governor is moving to mandate the wearing of masks and social distancing in all public settings. The lieutenant governor agrees that masks and social distancing are vital to controlling the virus, but held that the mandate of wearing a mask is an infringement on personal freedom and an unnecessary intrusion of government into the lives of its citizens. This logic escapes me.
Yesterday in Philadelphia, former President Barak Obama gave a speech in support of his former Vice-President, Joe Biden. I have no doubt that potential GOP voters dismissed the speech without listening to it or reading it. I have little doubt that potential Democratic voters accepted it in glowing terms, even if they also did not listen to it or read it. And I have no doubt that some now reading this post will think, “I knew it, he is a ______” (please fill in the blank as you see fit; for the record I am unaffiliated and quite independent). But, one might wonder why I posted this. The reason is simple and has come out in many homilies over the years. “The thoughts we have become the words we speak. The word we speak shape the actions we take. The actions we take form the habits we develop. The habits we develop reveal the character we possess. The character we possess shapes our destiny.” We Christians are asked to take all that and ask, “Do the thoughts, words, actions, habits and character we display reflect the image of God, the likeness of Christ to others?”
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49) Our gospel text is not one you find on many refrigerator doors or on greeting cards. The image of Jesus in these text is upsetting to one who only seeks the meek and mild Jesus. Having begun with an exhortation to courage in the face of tribulation, continuing with a warning against avarice in the face of fear, Jesus now raises the issue of judgment. The people are called to conversion before it is too late.
Throughout Luke 12 Jesus has continued to call for people to “see,” a message that has been present since the beginning of the mission of the 72 others in the beginning of Luke 10. A message made clear upon their return: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24). Along the continuing journey to Jerusalem each person becomes an opportunity for Jesus to help them (and the crowds) to see more clearly, more richly: the scholar of the Law in Luke 10:25 ff; Martha and Mary (vv.38-42); the disciples in Luke 11, as well as the Pharisees in that same encounter; and Jesus continually speaks so that they will become “rich in what matters to God” (Luke 12:21). But in the end a decision is always needed. Continue reading