Ho-hum many of us probably thought as I read the Gospel - and might have thought – here we go again with those Beatitudes. . . maybe even with a yawn.
I think the problem with the Beatitudes, this first part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – is that we have heard them so many times – that we’ve probably never really stopped to think about them – and then have probably never really understood them. . .
In 2020, hard to believe 3 years ago now – Pope Francis gave a series of talks over the course of 3 months – when he explained in detail, the meaning of each of the Beatitudes.
Those talks are worth reflecting on and you can find them by putting: Pope Francis’ catechesis on the Beatitudes Into your computer’s search engine.
We don’t have time to go into a lot of the details that Pope Francis covered – so instead, I want to lead you through a guided meditation based on Pope Francis’ thoughts.
You may remember we did this a couple of year ago with another Gospel.
A guided meditation is a process where someone else – that would be me – leads you through a reflection –by making statements to get your mind and heart moving in a certain direction to achieve the purpose of relaxation – or a better understanding of a concept or idea.
So although you may be a little more relaxed or less stressed when we are finished – our goal is to achieve a better understanding of the Beatitudes.
So here we go. We start by closing our eyes and just relaxing: doing our best to release the tensions we all carry –by – Breathing in – and breathing out:
Trying to center ourselves in our hearts. And trying to open our ears and our hearts to listen attentively.
So we breath in – and breath out. Trying to think of nothing other than our breathing. And the peace that comes upon us.
Breathing in – and breathing out. Resting and relaxing in the presence of the Lord.
Breathing in and Breathing out.
And Jesus began to teach them by saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Gospel invites us to peer into the depths of our heart, to see where we find our security in life – so we can configure ourselves to Jesus who, though rich, made himself poor.
So we need to be responsible with our gifts of time and money – and be grateful for what God has given us - and share them generously with others.
Breathing in and out – resting in the Lord.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The worldly person ignores problems of sickness or sorrow in the family or around them. We avert our gaze. The world has no desire to mourn; it would rather disregard painful situations or cover them up or hide them.
We must not ignore someone who could use our comfort this day. We must pay attention to the pain of others.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
These are strong words in a world where we constantly pigeonhole others on the basis of their ideas, their customs and even their way of speaking or dressing. Ultimately, it is the reign of pride and vanity, where each person thinks he or she has the right to think they are better than others.
Jesus warns us many times about judging others. Those who are meek accept others for who they are and where they are – and only then can love them into being better people.
Breathing in and out – relaxing in the presence of the Lord. Releasing our tensions and random thoughts.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Experience shows how easy it is to become mired in corruption, ensnared in the daily politics of this for that, where everything becomes business or political. How many people suffer injustice, standing by powerlessly while others divvy up the good things of this life?
We must use our power or position today - at either at work, in society, or in our families to make sure all people may be raised up to a new hope. Our eyes must be opened to the needs of others so that we do not benefit to the neglect or cost of others.
Breathing in and out – centering our hearts on the Lord. . .
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Be merciful, even as God is merciful. Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.
We must avoid, even in small ways, seeking revenge against someone who has wronged us. We must comfort those who labor and are burdened.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Nothing stained by falsehood has any real worth in the Lord’s eyes. God flees from deceit, and rises and departs from foolish thoughts.
We must not let our prideful or impure thoughts lead us to unloving actions. And we must all stand as living witness to truth, peace, and justice.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
We ourselves are often a cause of conflict – or at least of misunderstanding. For example, I may hear something about someone and go off and repeat it. I may even embellish it the second time around and keep spreading it. . .
And the more harm it does, the more satisfaction I seem to derive from it.
We should always use our words to build people up – rather than tear them down. For spreading gossip causes conflict and misunderstanding - and if we do it for our own benefit or pleasure: it is sinful.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.
In living the Gospel, we cannot expect everything will be easy, for the thirst for power and worldly interests often stands in our way.
We must not neglect our call to holiness in favor of an easier way of living. When others treat us unfairly – we should not allow ourselves to become bitter or lash out in anger or defensiveness.
So we open our eyes - and end by praying:
Lord Jesus - you have given us these Beatitudes as a way of focusing ourselves: our thoughts, our words, our actions – on the kingdom of heaven.
May the prayer we have engaged in here - always effect the way we live our lives when we leave this place. We ask this in your name. AMEN!
Many years ago, I was spending a few days with a friend of mine in Austin, Texas. After a full and lengthy meal - he had to go off to a meeting - and even though he told me not to bother - I decided to do the dishes.
After clearing the table and loading the dishwasher – I looked for some soap to put in the dishwasher. Not finding any, I thought the next best thing would be to just to use regular dish-washing soap - so I put a capful or so in.
After reading for awhile, I came out to check on the progress of the washing cycle – and found soap suds all over the kitchen floor.
I learned two things: a little bit of dish soap goes a long way — and to never put it in the dishwasher. . .
A little bit goes along way. Or perhaps another way of saying it – little things can lead to great things. . .
And I think that’s the message of today’s scripture readings. . . Little things can lead to great things. . .
When the prophet Isaiah arrived on the scene – the nation of Israel and its people were not doing very well.
The surrounding more powerful nations often picked on tiny Israel and - due to their own trust issues and infidelity to God – God allowed the chosen people to be bullied and enslaved as a result of their own sins - even though God loved them dearly.
Our first reading reminds us that God can do great things with very little – for God never has or ever will - abandon God’s people: God will raise Israel up to become a “light to the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Likewise in our second reading: St. Paul is reminding the young Church in Corinth that although right now they are small in number and in power – they are called to be holy - and God will use them to do great things.
Then there is John the Baptist - who lived as more of a hermit with questionable fashion and dietary habits – then as a spokesperson for God.
But God used this obscure desert dweller to put the Pharisees in their place – the people on notice – and the Lord Jesus on his Mission.
The point of all this? We might get up in the morning, look in the mirror – and see everything that we are lacking. We may well wonder what we have to offer those in our lives and those in our part of the world.
But God doesn’t see us that way. As we have been professing in our Christmas Creed the last several weeks:
If you believe the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible, and whose cradle was a mother’s arms, who looked at persons and made them see what God’s loves saw in them, who by love brought sinners back to purity,
and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God – then say AMEN!
God doesn’t see the way we see. God doesn’t focus on what we seem to lack but on our capacity to love.
God sees all God designed us to be and all that we can become by the help of grace.
May favorite blogger: Darren Poke, puts it this way:
It’s easy to look at the success of others and think that they are a rare breed of person and you could never have the impact that they have.
It’s easy to look at your skills and capabilities and think that you don’t have much to offer.
It’s easy to look back at your track record of mediocre results and think that this is your future destiny as well.
It’s easy to listen to the critics who don’t believe in you, allowing their voices to become the ones you listen to the most.
But let me encourage you today – to NOT underestimate your potential!
You have the potential to develop your unique skills to an elite level.
You have the potential to roll up your sleeves and work hard toward meaningful goals.
You have the potential to positively influence and inspire the people around you.
You have the potential to change the world!
The moment we all realize this and start taking action— we give ourselves the chance to turn our potential into a phenomenal reality.
God doesn’t see the way we do. God doesn’t focus on what we seem to lack but on our capacity to love.
God sees all God designed us to be and all that we can become by the help of grace.
We are greater than we can ever imagine. We can become a saint - a true light to the nations - and all God needs is our YES! So what is our answer going to be??
On Christmas we heard these wonderful words which brought about our salvation: “While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.”
I have been called into delivery rooms shortly after a baby has born – but I have never been present for the birth of a child.
I can well imagine, though – the last thing a mother or a father wants after sometimes a very lengthy delivery – is what happens to this young couple right after the birth of their sacred child:
“The shepherds (definitely in the plural) went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant- lying in a manger.”
Next week we will hear of the three wisemen or magi (again, definitely in the plural) who were “overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother.”
From these Scriptures we know that Mary and Joseph and Jesus – had a lot of visitors. All of them invited by God in some way –but probably a pain and an inconvenience for the Holy Family with a new baby in the house.
Perhaps we felt the same way about some of the visitors and guests we encountered during these holydays. . .
It is almost inevitable each year that Chrsitmas time can become a very stressful time.
Christmas often gathers family and friends. Sometimes the most difficult relationships of our lives all coming together in one place at one time.
Who among us, in our experience of Christmas, did not have some difficult experience with someone?
A word was said meanly. An old wound was re-opened. Someone was going through a hard time and was coping very badly.
We rediscovered how much someone really drives us crazy. And O the things that can annoy us!
And alcohol - intended as a traditional holiday element to add cheer – can make everything worse.
Christmas is about the Love of God coming into the world to be the light in the midst of the world’s darkness. Christmas is about the invitation to receive the light of Christ into our own hearts and to let that light shine in us and through us as it did in Jesus.
To be a disciple of light, we have to let go of the darkness and let the light into our hearts.
We have to forgive. We have to be patient. We have to try to understand and accept others for who they are and where they are.
We have to love the way Christ loved.
And the only way we can do all this is to continue to let the healing grace of Christmas touch us.
Since we do not get to celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on a Sunday this year – the price of Christmas being on a Sunday – perhaps it will do us well to reflect on these words of Pope Francis. The Holy Father said in one of his Sunday Angelus addresses:
We are invited to open ourselves to the light of Christ and bear fruit in our lives - to get rid of the behaviors that are not Christian.
This path of life begins in Baptism when we are illuminated by Christ. Through our Baptism we are called to carry ourselves as children of the light - with humility, patience, and mercy.
The Sacrament of Baptism demands a choice- firm and decided, to live as children of the light and to walk in the light of Christ.
What does it mean to walk in the light? It means first of all abandoning all the false lights of the world like the cold and foolish light of prejudices against others.
Another false light which is so seductive is self-interest.
Pope Francis concludes by praying:
May the blessed virgin Mary, who first welcomed Jesus, the light of the world – grant us grace to welcome again this Christmas season the light of faith and rediscover the inestimable gift of Baptism.
And may this enlightenment transform us – both in attitudes and in actions - starting from our poverty of littleness, to be bearers of a ray of Christ’s light.
Mary knew the poverty of littleness of which Pope Francis speaks quite well. She knew that innocence is born in poverty and suffers greatly in trying to be faithful to the way of Christ.
And it is why she kept all the greetings and gifts and commotions, and disturbances, and annoyances her many postnatal visitors brought to her – reflecting on them in her heart.
So as we celebrate this feast, and begin a new year:
May the Lord bless and keep us. May the Lord let his face shine upon us and be gracious to us. May the Lord give us the grace we need - to bear the light of Christ into the darkness of world. AMEN!
Moments in time...