Our Gospel this weekend is Matthew’s version of the beatitudes. They are the introduction to Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount, which is three chapters long. Scholars agree that Jesus probably didn’t preach it all at one time; rather, it is a compilation that Matthew put together.
I remember hearing a Capuchin friend in Milwaukee, Michael Crosby, refer to them as the be-attitudes, that is, attitudes that will get us through life as Christ wants us to be. They are the fulfillment and the
completion of the 10 commandments. The commandments tell us not to hurt others; the beatitudes challenge us to go beyond that and live in a way that we are being generous and loving to others. The world has picked up on the commandments and put laws into place to protect us: it makes sense to forbid killing, theft, etc. But the
beatitudes call us beyond what can be comprehended from a simply human point of view, beyond what can be dictated by civil law: they call us to live our lives thinking of more than ourselves.
I would like to share my personal reflection on three of them:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps this is the basic be-attitude, for to be poor in spirit means to be able to think of others, to be able to move beyond oneself and one’s needs. The more I am able to live this way, the easier the other be-attitudes will be for me.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Perhaps the most important way we can be meek is to be compassionate and forgiving. We all make mistakes and hurt other people. When we are “proud” and not able to forgive, we bring unhappiness to ourselves and those around us, rather than peace. Being able to forgive is crucial for living Gospel values.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Another way that we live for others is to be concerned for the poor and vulnerable, those who are exploited for the benefit of others. Jesus constantly reached out to the most vulnerable. We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can do what is within our power to make things better.
These are a few of my reflections on what the be-attitudes mean to me, as I discern how to live my life. I invite you this week to spend time reflecting on the be-attitudes as Matthew presents them, letting them challenge you to live a more other-centered life. The more we can do that, the more we will bring Christ’s light to the world. God bless.
Church sign of the week: we are each angels with one wing and we can only fly by embracing one another.
In our Gospel this weekend, we listen as Jesus calls four of His main apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They leave their former way of life behind to become “fishers of people.”
As I was reflecting on this Gospel, I remembered reading about a little town in the Swiss Alps with a monument to two men who had climbed a great mountain. One of them, a famous scientist who wrote many books, got a lot of press and recognition, but he could not have done it without the other person, a poor, humble guide. The townspeople recognized this and acknowledged the guide, along with the famous man.
No message is clearer in the New Testament than God uses ordinary people to bring about His Kingdom. It started with Mary and Joseph having their child in a stable. It continued with Jesus beginning His ministry in Galilee, not Jerusalem. It continues in our Gospel today with His call of simple fishermen to be His main companions. All of this emphasizes a Messiah who is crucified and dies, not a military hero.
There is a lot of work to be done for the Kingdom. There are many people who are alone and need someone to visit them. There are many organizations who serve the poor that are looking for volunteers. There are lots of opportunities to be involved here at Pius, building up the community and making it strong.
So, when an opportunity presents itself for you to serve in some
capacity, don’t give yourself a pass by saying, “Others are better prepared” or “Others have a better personality” or some other excuse. God will give us what we need. What He can’t give us is the willingness to take a risk and say “yes”: that we have to do on our own, as did Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
God has given us many gifts and talents. Let’s make sure we are actively using them to build up His Kingdom. God bless.
Church sign of the week: Where God guides, God provides.
This weekend we begin Ordinary time and this year we will be reading mostly from the Gospel of Matthew. Our liturgical color during Ordinary time is green, the color of growth, because we will be learning how to grow as disciples through Jesus’ words and actions as presented to us by Matthew.
Our readings this weekend are a good introduction to Ordinary time, explaining to us, through examples, that each one of us has been called:
Isaiah: formed “as a servant” in his mother’s womb and called “to be a light to the nations.”
Paul: called to be an apostle, telling us that we are all called to be holy (by being apostles, also).
John the Baptist and Jesus: our Gospel tells us that they were both called, John to preach repentance and point to the one coming after him, Jesus to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The point is that we have been formed as servants in our mother’s womb, called by God to be apostles, that is, to bring Christ to others. And we will learn how to do that through the words and actions of Jesus, as we listen to Matthew’s Gospel this year.
Many of the passages we will hear during the 34 weeks of Ordinary time will be very familiar to us. We will hear lots of parables, for example, the mustard seed; the seeds that fall on rocky ground; the 10 wise and foolish virgins; every worker getting a daily wage. We will learn who Jesus is through the Transfiguration, His walking on water, and His explanation, after Peter has identified Him as the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi, that he will be a Messiah who suffers and dies. He will do a lot of teaching and explanation of the scriptures for His followers, including us.
Since we have heard these Gospels many times before, the human tendency is to let them go in one ear and out the other. I invite us, as we begin ordinary time, to make a resolution to listen carefully to the Gospels, reflecting on them and allowing God to speak to us in our hearts. Then we will be growing as disciples. God bless.
Church sign of the week: You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation.” Through the Magi, the Messiah was manifested to the whole world. He had already been manifested to the Jewish people through the shepherds.
This feast is emphasizing the reality that this Child is the Savior of ALL people. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, and “us” includes each and every human being.
His presence continues today: God is with us in the people around us, our family members, an annoying co-worker, the beggar on the street. He is being manifested to us constantly, but do we always recognize Him? Our world today is so frenetic, we spend so much time on social media and looking at our cell phones. Next time you are in a restaurant, look around and see how many people are engrossed in their phones instead of connecting with the people at their table. He is especially present in those that need our help and attention: the hungry, the lonely, the bullied, etc.
I invite us to reflect this week on how well we do at recognizing and responding to Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the people around us. That might help us to be patient with someone who is annoying us. It might help us to forgive someone who has hurt us. It might help us control our anger when someone cuts us off in traffic. It might help us get up from in front of the television to visit a shut-in. And so on.
The more all of us can recognize Christ in those around us, the more “peace on earth” we will have: we will be bringing the true meaning of Christmas to life in our world today. God bless.
Church sign of the week: What does God have in common with an object in the car mirror? Both are closer than you think.