The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Monday, June 11, 2018

Homily: Memorial of St. Barnabus (Monday, 10th Week of Ordinary Time)

Readings: Acts 11:21b-26; Ps 98; Mt 5:1-12

The Beatitudes, with which Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, are not only a gateway to the sermon, but also a gateway to Jesus' teaching.

But we should understand they don't refer to different kinds of Christians but rather to different demands made on everyone who wants to be Jesus' disciple. In other words, we must all be poor in spirit and meek; we must mourn, hunger and thirst after righteousness, be merciful and clean of heart; we must be peacemakers, and be willing to suffer persecution while seeking holiness.
The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus promises salvation to all who strive to follow the spirit and meet the demands of the Beatitudes. Healthy and sick, powerful and weak, rich and poor - Jesus calls all to the blessings experienced by those who live up to His teaching. While the Beatitudes promise salvation not in this world, but in the next, they do promise peace in this life, God's peace even in the midst of suffering.

In a sense, then, the Beatitudes encapsulate the entirety of Christ's teaching. These promises are so new, so radical, so at odds with the way the world has always evaluated things. By placing spiritual good above material or worldly good, they rule out the religiosity of the Pharisees, a religiosity that regards earthly happiness as a blessing and reward from God, and unhappiness and misfortune as punishment. 

And so I think it's good for us to turn to them on occasion, reminding ourselves of what Jesus is telling us...

The poor in spirit? These are the detached, the spiritually needy, the truly humble, who look only to God for salvation and trust in His mercy. They know they are children in the presence of God, that they own nothing. Everything comes from and belongs to God. This spiritual poverty is what Jesus asks of each of us.
Blessed are the poor in spirit...
Those who mourn... Too often we think this applies only to the mourning that follows the death of a loved one. But Jesus takes it much further. We are blessed, He tells us, when we suffer and bear our suffering with love and a spirit of atonement. We are blessed in our repentance, and when we are pained by or suffer from the offenses of others.

Indeed, the Holy Spirit consoles those who mourn, those who weep for their own sins and the sins of the world. These are truly blessed.
...for they will be comforted
The meek suffer patiently and with humility, even in the midst of unjust persecution. The meek aren't the weak - not at all - for once again Jesus turns the world upside down, showing us the strength of the meek, those who remain serene, humble, and steadfast in their faith, who never give in to resentment or discouragement.

You and I, when we are irritable and resentful, simply display our lack of humility and interior peace. The virtue of meekness is the antidote and a necessary part of the Christian life.
Blessed are the meek...
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, we strive to do God's Will by seeking justice, obeying the commandments, living a life of prayer - in a word, striving for holiness.
Seeking holiness, we are called to turn to the Church, the universal vehicle of salvation; to love the Church's teaching and the Sacraments; to strive for an intimate relationship with God in prayer; and to seek justice, God's justice, in all we do.

Jesus wants us to hunger and thirst for all He offers us, including His Presence in the Eucharist; for it is all good. 
Hunger and thirst for God...
The merciful always forgive. They accept other's defects, helping them cope with them, and loving them despite their sins. To be merciful is to imitate Jesus, the source of all mercy. To be merciful is to rejoice with others and to suffer with others. It's really the practical application of the 2nd of the great commandments: love your neighbor as yourself.
Blessed are the merciful...
The clean of heart have the capacity to love, a gift God offers to us all. They have an upright and pure attitude to everything noble. As St. Paul instructed the Philippians: 
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is beautiful, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" [Phil 4:8].
Helped by God's grace, we should strive to cleanse our hearts and acquire this purity, for its reward is the vision of God.

The peacemakers foster God's peace in themselves and in others. They strive to be reconciled and to reconcile others with God.

Being at peace with God is the cause and effect of every kind of peace.  Any peace on earth not based on this divine peace will be shallow and misleading. "They shall be called sons of God" [Mt 5:9]. As St. John makes clear in his first letter,
"See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" [1 Jn 3:1].
Blessed are the peacemakers...
The persecuted suffer because they strive for holiness, something the world despises. They are blessed for being true to Jesus, for suffering patiently and joyfully.

In every Christian's life there are situations that call for heroism, where no compromise is possible. One either stays true to Jesus Christ whatever the cost or one denies Him.

St. Bernard calls it "the beatitude of the martyrs." But don't be deceived into thinking it doesn't apply to you; for martyr simply means witness, and we are all called to be witnesses to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Christian martyrs today
We are reminded of this today, the memorial of St. Barnabus, who not only spent his life as a witness to Jesus Christ, but willingly gave his life.

St. Barnabus, Martyr 61 A.D.
To refuse to be the Christian witnesses we are all called to be is to lack faith, to have no trust that God remains with us to support and strengthen us.

Yes, indeed, following the Beatitudes, living the true Christian life, isn't easy; but God promised to remain with us, to help us as we struggle to put them into practice. Because of this promise, you and I can believe that all sacrifice and all suffering has value.

When we suffer, yes, our faith can be tested. But we know that we can trust God no matter how difficult the circumstances. We can say, "Thy will be done," no matter how much we are defeated. If we can do these things, our faith is real and practical.

For God's will works in bad times and in good times.  It works in ways that are far beyond our ability to understand, but we can always trust in it.

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