February 10, 2019

O. T. VI Sunday homily for Feb 17th

OT VI [C] Homily (Feb 17, 2019): One- page Summary 

Introduction: Today’s readings teach us that true happiness, or beatitude, lies in the awareness that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father and that we will be happy only when we share our blessings with our brothers and sisters in need, and when we work to uplift them, thus declaring our “option for the poor,” as Jesus did. Contrary to the popular belief, wealth, health, power and influence are not the source of true happiness. The word “beatitude” means “blessedness” in a double sense: both enjoying God’s favor and enjoying true or supreme happiness.

Scripture lessons:   In the first reading, Jeremiah tells us that true happiness consists in our placing our trust in God and in putting our trust in His promises. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 1), finds beatitude in keeping God’s Law. In the second reading St. Paul warns us that true beatitude is obtainable only in Heaven and that Christ’s Resurrection gives us our assurance of reaching Heaven for an everlasting life of happiness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical   blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution.  “Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted and denounced,” because in poverty, we recognize our dependence on God; in hunger, God’s providence; in sorrow for sins, reconciliation with God; and in persecution, the true joy of standing for the Faith with heroic convictions. What makes one blessed is not simply poverty or hunger or sadness or suffering for the Faith but living these in the context of our commitment to Jesus and his spirit of sharing. Beatitudes consist in humble selflessness and compassionate and generous sharing of our blessings with the needy. The beatitudes must be understood as eschatological statements which see and evaluate the present in terms of the future glory and everlasting happiness.

Life Messages: 1) We need to respond to the challenge of the beatitudes in our daily life.  Millions are starving, persecuted, homeless, and leading hopeless lives. The only way the promises of the beatitudes can become a reality for them is through the efforts of people like us.  Hence, let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the beatitudes here and now. 2) Let us light a candle instead of blaming the political set-up.   God knows that 50% of His children are hungry, 80% live in substandard housing and 70% have no education. If over half our children were hungry, cold and uneducated, how would we respond to their suffering?  God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another. 3) We must take care to choose our way wisely.There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian Faith. The way of life and true happiness is the way of Jesus, the way of the beatitudes, the way of rendering loving service to God by serving our brothers and sisters.

OT VI [C] (Feb 18): Jer 17: 5-8; I Cor 15:12, 16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26

Homily starter anecdote: # 1: Happiness Myths: Dr. Harold Treffert is the director of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin. In an article entitled “The American Fairy Tale,” he discusses five dangerous ideas we have about the meaning of happiness. First, happiness is things. The more you accumulate and have, the happier you will be. Second, happiness is what you do. The more you produce and earn, the happier you will be. Third, happiness is being the same as others. The more you are fashionable and conform with the times, the happier you will be. Fourth, happiness is mental health. The fewer problems you have and the more carefree you are, the happier you will be. Fifth, happiness is communicating with electronic gadgets. The more you can communicate with a television set, a satellite or a computer, the happier you will be. According to Dr. Treffert, these five myths about happiness are the cause of many mental health problems today. If happiness cannot be found through these five myths of “The American Fairy Tale,” then where do we find it? Jesus gives us the answer when he outlines the beatitudes in today’s reading from Luke. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds)   

#2: “Don’t you believe the Bible? Sometime before she died, someone had the audacity to ask St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), “Why do you spend so much energy on the poor, the hungry, and the weeping of those in Calcutta?” She responded, “Jesus says the poor are the blessed ones. I take him at his word. I treat them as the royalty of God’s kingdom, because they are.” To grow into becoming a Christian is, in no small part, to be converted into seeing the world as God sees it. It is to be given new eyes to look upon people and events from an eternally loving perspective. When that begins to happen, you begin to see that God has an opinion about how life should be lived, what Churches should be doing, and how people should act. You begin to see that the future belongs to those whom God blesses. They include the poor, the hungry, the hopeless, the damaged, and those whose only salvation is found in the God who comes to redeem.

# 3: Beatitude in puppy’s tail: Said a puppy to his old uncle dog, “From my short experience in life I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness and that happiness is in my tail. That is why I am chasing my tail, and when I catch it, I shall have perfect happiness.” The old dog replied, “From my research and long experience, I too, have judged that happiness is a fine thing for a dog and that happiness is in his tail. But I’ve noticed that whenever I chase it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business, it comes after me.” (Here are the examples of three famous women who chased happiness as the puppy did, in the wrong places, and met with tragic ends: 1) Anna Nicole Smith (39)-model, cover girl, actress – sought happiness in drugs. 2) Marilyn Monroe (36)- actress, American idol, model- who did the same in 1962, and 3) Princess Diana of England (36) who met with accidental death on her way to seeking happiness in the wrong place). What is our picture of a happy life? According to one study conducted in the U. S. only 20% of Americans claim to be happy.  Is the “American dream” our picture of the happy life: the ideal of owning a beautiful home with a two-car garage, having a loving and adjusting spouse, two well-behaved kids, and a dog, enjoying a decent job, and having enough money to enjoy leisure and retired life? Where do we go in search of happiness: the movie theater, the amusement park, a hiking trail, a shopping mall, a good restaurant, a ballpark? In the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew, and in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke from which we read today, Jesus gives us a rather different picture of a happy life. Jesus tells us that we can find true and lasting happiness in ways we may never have considered.

Introduction: Today’s readings teach us that true happiness, or beatitude, lies in the awareness of who we are and of what we are supposed to do. They remind us that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father and that we will be happy in this world and in Heaven only when we share our blessings with our brothers and sisters in need and work to uplift them, thus declaring our “option for the poor,” as Jesus did. The eight beatitudes Jesus gives in Mathew and the four in Luke contradict the ideas of real happiness found in the Jewish culture and in our modern society, according to which wealth, health, power and influence are the true beatitudes.   “The beatitudes” are technically known as “macarisms”, or blessings (from the Greek makarios, meaning “blessed” or “happy.”)   Macarisms are found in the Book of Proverbs, in the Psalms, and even in the Book of Revelation.  There are thirty-seven beatitudes in the New Testament, seventeen of which are sayings of Jesus. Beatitudes appear in the Old Testament as well. The first reading tells us that true beatitude consists in placing our trust in God and in putting our trust in His promises. The Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 1), finds beatitude in keeping God’s Law. St. Paul warns us, in the second reading, that true beatitude is obtainable only in Heaven, and that Christ’s Resurrection is our assurance of reaching Heaven for an everlasting life of happiness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical   blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution because these contradict our natural expectations in every way.  “Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted and denounced,” because in poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. Experiencing these miseries opens the way for us to receive the true riches, food, comfort and acceptance we can find only in His love and His presence here, and in His Kingdom forever. The beatitudes are commands for how we should live, and what we should do. What makes one blessed is not simply poverty or hunger or sadness or suffering for the Faith but living these in the context of our commitment to Jesus and His spirit of sharing.

First reading (Jer. 17:5-8), explained: Jeremiah gives a beatitude of blessing (17:7-8), paired with a curse (17:5-6), as its opposite, when he compares the wicked to a barren bush in a desert and the just to a well-watered tree growing near a running stream.  In essence, this “beatitude” teaches us that if we choose God as our hope, our security, and our happiness, we will be blessed, truly happy. On the other hand, if we choose human standards for our guides, ourselves as our source of security and the meeting of our own needs and desires as our happiness, we will find ourselves living in increasing misery and confusion, that is, in woe.   Jeremiah tells us that the only source of lasting happiness is trust in God and hope in His promises. The manner in which each of us exercises our freedom of choice will also determine whether we shall bring upon ourselves and our world blessings or curses. The passage is amplified in Psalm 1, today’s Responsorial Psalm.

Second reading (I Cor 15:12, 16-20), explained: St. Paul writes that trust and hope in the Resurrection of Jesus are the basis of our Faith, of our own resurrection and of our eternal bliss. Through Jesus’ death and Resurrection, believers are now welcomed into a new relationship with God as His sons and daughters, and with each other as dear brothers and sisters who have Jesus as our Elder Brother and Redeemer. This means that all the blessings of the Beatitudes are now available to us, provided we choose to follow the Beatitudes, for they codify, so to speak, the pattern of living Jesus established.

Gospel exegesis: Luke presents the Sermon on the Plain as following immediately upon the choosing of the twelve apostles (Luke 6:13 ff).   Therefore, one of the Fathers of the Church called this sermon “The Ordination Address to the Twelve.”  Both the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke are also known as “The Compendium of Christian Doctrine,” “The Magna Carta of the Kingdom,” and “The Manifesto of the King.”    In these two sermons we have the essence of Jesus’ teachings to his chosen apostles.  The introductory portion of the sermon consists of blessings and woes that reflect the real economic and social conditions of humanity (the poor–the rich; the hungry–the satisfied; those grieving–those laughing; the outcast–the socially acceptable). Each beatitude consisted of a pronouncement of blessedness (makarios) followed by who is blessed and why. These beatitudes of Jesus were taught in Aramaic.   In Aramaic they are not simple statements; rather, they are exclamations, i.e., “O the blessedness of the poor in spirit!” (Compare today’s Responsorial Psalm [Psalm 1], for a similar Hebrew version). In our current language it may be phrased as “Congratulations to …” the poor, the hungry etc. as a way of celebrating the blessed person’s success. Luke proposes that material poverty leads us to greater detachment from the things of this world, thereby allowing us to attach ourselves to spiritual values. The beatitudes must be understood as eschatological statements which see and evaluate the present in terms of the future. In the same way, the woes pronounced upon the rich, the full, and those who laugh, function as an expression of sadness, not because of the person’s present circumstances but because of what will ultimately be.

Matthew’s vs. Luke’s versions: Matthew presents the beatitudes as coming at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  In Luke’s version, Jesus stands on a plain and states the beatitudes in   more compact and radical terms.  Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” is shorter than Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” the latter extending through three chapters.   Matthew gives eight beatitudes (the ninth being an explanation of the eighth), while Luke gives four “beatitudes” and four “woes.”   This practice of pairing of blessings and woes is seen in Deuteronomy 27:12-13.  The wording in Luke is also quite different from that in Matthew. In Matthew, Jesus uses   the third person (“they will be filled”), whereas in Luke, He speaks in the second person (“you will be filled”).  Matthew speaks only of the reward promised to those who live according to Jesus’ message.  Luke, on the other hand, emphasizes the consequences those who do not heed Jesus’ words will suffer.  Whereas Luke declares that the “poor,” are blessed, Matthew uses the phrase “poor in spirit,” thereby advocating a slightly different attitude, or disposition, toward God. Luke’s version seems to mark with greater severity Jesus’ warning to the “rich,” the “full,” the “laughing,” and “those who are spoken well of,” that is, to the self-centered and self-satisfied, whatever their financial or social status.

The fourth beatitude: Addressing his disciples, Jesus calls those who are persecuted for their Faith blessed because 1) they are eligible for a glorious reward (“Your reward will be great in Heaven“), 2) they are given the privilege of sharing in the pain, suffering, and rejection which Jesus himself endured for our sins, and 3) they are following in the footsteps of the martyrs of the Old Testament period and of the early martyrs of the infant Church. The thousands of Christians who courageously face persecution for their Faith in different parts of the world today share in the same beatitude. Bearing heroic witness to their Faith in Christ Jesus, they teach and inspire us to do the same.

Liberation theology in the “Beatitudes. Luke presents the beatitudes as reinforcing what Mary had said a few chapters earlier in the Magnificat: “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”  The themes of the beatitudes reappear throughout both Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s account, alone among the Gospels, expands on the words spoken by Jesus at his inaugural sermon in Nazareth. There, Jesus declared an “option for the poor” and a “theology of liberation” with the powerful theme of economic and social reversal clearly stated. Luke’s account also demonstrates Jesus’ solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable and with women, minorities, and the socially despised. In both Matthew and Luke, the beatitudes are a “series of bomb-shells” or “flashes of lightning followed by the thunder of surprise and shock” for Jesus’ hearers. That is because Jesus reverses our “natural” assumption that happiness lies in riches, pleasure, comfort and influence, and emphasizes the paradoxical   blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution, not in themselves but in what they can do.  He also challenges his listeners to find the fulfillment of all their needs in God. Jesus teaches that, although the poor are despised, resented or pitied by the world, God loves them deeply in their poverty, their sadness, their hunger and their deprived status. This is the basis of the so-called “option for the poor” that we are called to have.

Liberation of the oppressed: If the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful and the hated are all blessed, then why should anyone attempt to help them improve their lot?  The answer is that there is a difference between choosing poverty and being plunged into it without one’s choice, due to an unjust socio-political situation.   There are a few, only a few, saints like Francis of Assisi, who freely choose the sufferings and hardships that poverty brings. That is not what the Beatitude suggests, nor what Jesus asks of most of us. It is true that we are unable to eradicate poverty from the face of the earth. But we can help, either directly or by working with others for our poor brothers and sisters to improve their living conditions and education, so that they may choose to free themselves from the poverty thrust upon them by greedy exploiters. Luke’s account offers the rich the good news that their salvation lies in their concern for the poor and in the good stewardship of sharing their goods with others in need. But the rich among us remain cursed as long as they remain unwilling to share their surplus with the needy. In short, in the beatitudes, Jesus envisions a society where the resources which belong to all are divided among all according to need, making everyone blessed and happy.

Life Messages: 1) We need to respond to the challenge of the beatitudes in our daily life.  Millions are starving, persecuted, homeless, and leading hopeless lives. The only way the promises of the beatitudes can become a reality for them is through the efforts of people like us. That is why we are told that we will be judged on the basis of our acts of mercy and charity (Mt. 25:31-46). St. Teresa of Calcutta, (Mother Teresa) and her Sisters have accepted this challenge and demonstrate that we can “live the beatitudes” in the modern world.  Hence, let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick, and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the beatitudes here and now. Just as the apostles were called to minister to society’s untouchables, all Christians are called to minister to the untouchables, and the discriminated against, and the marginalized in our own modern society.

2) Let us light a candle instead of blaming the political set-up.   Suppose we put the entire human family into a microcosm of one hundred people.   Eighty of them live in sub-standard housing, fifty are malnourished, and seventy are unable to read, while only one of them has a college education or owns a computer. Six of those one hundred people possess 59% of the world’s wealth and five of them are from the United States.  This may help us to get a picture of the poverty in our world.   God, however, doesn’t need such a microcosm.   He   sees the whole human family.   He knows that 50% of His children are hungry, 80% live in substandard housing and 70% have no education. If over half our children were hungry, cold and uneducated, how would we respond to their suffering?  God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another. This is why, down through the centuries, individuals, congregations and church bodies have practiced charity in creative, faithful ways. They have operated soup kitchens, food banks, clothing centers, homeless shelters and housing programs.  Individuals have taken care of their neighbors, helping them out with food, clothing and shelter when there was need

3) We must take care to choose our way wisely.There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian Faith. The way of life is the way of Jesus, the way of the beatitudes, the way of loving service to God and our brothers and sisters that leads to eternal life. The other way is the way of death. It is the way of self-centeredness, self-reliance, immorality, self-indulgence and immediate gratification. It leads to death and hell. Which way are we going? The challenge of the beatitudes is: “Are you going to be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?” If we choose the world’s way, we are seeking our blessings in the wrong place.

JOKE OF THE WEEK: # 1: Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God: This is taken from the national archives of the letters of pure-hearted kids to their pastors proving how pure they are in heart: Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody, but He never met my sister. Yours sincerely, Arnold. Age 8, Nashville. Dear Pastor, please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson. Sincerely, Pete. Age 9, Phoenix. Dear Pastor, my father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something. Robert Anderson, age 11. Dear Pastor, I’m sorry I can’t leave more money in the plate, but my father didn’t give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance? Love, Patty. Age 10, New Haven. Dear Pastor, My mother is very religious. She goes to play Bingo at Church every week even if she has a cold. Yours truly, Annette. Age 9, Albany. Dear Pastor, I would like to go to Heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there. Stephen. Age 8, Chicago. Dear Pastor, I think a lot more people would come to your Church if you moved it to Disneyland. Loreen. Age 9. Tacoma. Dear Pastor, Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God’s help or a new pitcher. Thank you, Alexander. Age 10, Raleigh. Dear Pastor, My father says I should learn the Ten Commandments. But I don’t think I want to because we have enough rules already in my house. Joshua. Age 10, South Pasadena. Dear Pastor, who does God pray to? Is there a God for God? Sincerely, Christopher. Age 9, Titusville. Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class. Carla. Age 10, Salina. Dear Pastor, How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers? Sincerely, Marie. Age 9, Lewiston

2) Blessed are the peace makers: Choice of Weapons:   Little Johnny came home from the playground with a bloody nose, black eye, and torn clothing. It was obvious he’d been in a bad fight and lost. While his father was patching him up, he asked his son what happened. “Well, Dad,” said Johnny, “I challenged Larry to a duel. And, you know, I gave him his choice of weapons.” “Uh-huh,” said the father, “that seems fair.” “I know, but I never thought he’d choose his big sister!”

3) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: Religious Holidays:  An atheist complained to a friend, “Christians have their special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter; and Jews celebrate their holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur; Muslims have their holidays. EVERY religion has its holidays.  But we atheists,”  he said,  “have no recognized national holidays.  It’s an unfair discrimination.”  His friend replied, “Well,…why don’t you celebrate April first?”

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK

1) New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia & news: http://www.newadvent.org/

2) Movies & TV Reviews: http://www.nccbuscc.org/movies/

3) American Catholic: http://www.americancatholic.org/

4) Resources for Catholic educators: http://www.4catholiceducators.com/gospel-luke-6-a.htm

5) Correct Hebrew pronunciation of Jewish feasts: https://youtu.be/91_3G7b80Ro

28- Additional anecdotes based on LK 6: 17, 20-26 & Mt 5: 1-11

(“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it. He called his stories ‘parables.'”(Janet Litherland, Storytelling from the Bible). n fact Mark 4:34 says, “he [Jesus] did not speak to them without a parable…“Visit the article: Picturing the Kingdom of God by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR: http://www.appleseeds.org/picture.htm)

1) Two different points of view on happiness: The “Dear Abby” Column once received a letter from a 15-year-old girl which read as follows: Dear Abby: Happiness is not having your parents scold you if you come home late, having your own bedroom, and getting the telephone call you’ve been hoping for. Happiness is belonging to a popular group, being dressed as well as anybody, and having a lot of spending money. Happiness is something I don’t have. “15 and Unhappy.” Shortly after the letter was published, “Dear Abby” received a reply from 13-year-old girl who wrote: Dear Abby: Happiness is being able to walk and talk, to see and hear. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a 15-year-old girl who can do all four things and still says she isn’t happy, I can talk, I can see, I can hear. But I can’t walk. “13, crippled and Happy.” These letters reflect two different points of view on happiness. Today’s Gospel on the beatitudes does the same. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds’).

2) The attitude that beatifies: There was a farmer. He lived a happy life spending most of the time taking care of his farm with the aid of his horse. One day he lost his horse. Neighbors came to sympathize with him. “What a shame”, they said. “Who knows? God Knows!” He replied. A week later this horse returned with another horse. The neighbors came to share his joy. “What a blessing”, they said. “Who knows? God knows!” he replied. One day while riding the horse his son fell down from the horse and broke his leg. Again neighbors came to offer their sympathy. “What a shame”, they said. “Who knows? God knows!” he replied. A week late a war broke out in their country. The king ordered all men over 18 years of age to join the military. They spared his son because of his broken leg. Once again neighbors rushed to his house. “What a blessing?” they said. “Who knows? God Knows!” the farmer replied. (SV)

3) Is there anybody who is really happy? According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States “in 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 and older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.” Three years ago, 45,000 American people were unhappy enough to snuff out their own existence. Statistics suggest that your lifetime 15 million people in this country will attempt to end their lives. And the suicide rate is increasing the fastest among young people nearly 300 percent among those 15 to 24 in the last twenty years. Is there anybody who is really happy?

4) “Happiness on easy monthly terms.” An ad appeared recently in USA TODAY for the BMW automobile. The ad begins like this: “Needless to say, you can’t buy happiness. But for a mere $299 a month, you can lease exhilaration. Simply visit your authorized BMW dealer before September 30 and lease a new BMW 325…” After extolling the virtues of the BMW, the ad concludes like this: “For a program of spiritual uplift on easy monthly terms, we recommend you visit a participating BMW dealer.” I like that: “a program of spiritual uplift on easy monthly terms.”

5) Eight laws of public health: Some years ago, a panel of doctors was appointed by the Federal government to meet together and draw up eight laws of public health that could be printed in pamphlet form and distributed to the public. After twelve days of exhaustive meetings, the doctors were unable to come to a consensus. It seems that their areas of concern were too diverse: one was a cancer specialist, one a cardiologist, one a psychiatrist, and they all approached the problem from their own discipline. The chest expert was concerned about coal dust from the mines and lint from textile mills, while the psychiatrist was concerned about the effects of urban stress. Finally, Dr. Harold Sladen from a Hospital in Detroit came up with an appropriate idea. He said: “Let’s just republish the Eight Beatitudes of Jesus and simply replace the word Blessed with the word Healthy!”

6) Living the beatitudes: In the last century, a Belgian priest named Father Damien went to live on a remote island colony among people with leprosy. Father Damien tried to live the values of the beatitudes. He was pure in heart, merciful, hungry and thirsty for righteousness. He was publicly persecuted for doing what he believed was right. His biographers also say he was often lonely, depressed, and stubborn. His immediate superiors branded him a troublemaker. (Gavan Daws, Holy Man (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), p. 249) The Catholic Church had to wait a long time before it canonized him (named a saint), in 2010. But people who knew Father Damien called him “happy” or “blessed.”

7) Happiness is found in purposeful living: In his book, Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins tells a revealing story about Pablo Casals, the great cellist. Cousins describes meeting Casals shortly before his ninetieth birthday. It was almost painful for Cousins to watch the old man dress. Arthritis, emphysema, the frailty of advanced years had taken their toll. The hands swollen, the fingers clenched how could a man in such condition ever hope to play his beloved music again. And yet, even before eating, Casals made his way slowly and with much difficulty to his piano. There a miracle took place right before Norman Cousins’ eyes. As he describes it, “The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward sunlight. [Casals’] back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely.” He began with a number by Bach which he played with sensitivity and control that would have been the envy of a young and agile pianist. He then launched into a Brahms concerto, and his fingers seemed to race above the keyboard. “His entire body seemed fused with music,” Cousins wrote. “It was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed from its arthritic coils.” By the time he walked away from the piano he seemed to be an entirely different person from the tired old man who struggled out of bed and into his clothes. He stood straighter and taller. He immediately walked to the breakfast table, ate heartily, and then went out for a stroll on the beach. “The sense of uselessness,” said Thomas Huxley, “is the severest shock which our system can sustain.” Conversely, when we have a great purpose to live for, a purpose that is high and noble, our whole being is enhanced. That is the first conclusion about happiness which we can derive from these teachings of our Lord. Happiness is found in giving ourselves to a high and noble purpose.

8) Is anyone in this world truly happy? Samuel Johnson once wrote a novel entitled Rasselas in which the main character, an Abyssinian prince, lived on a mountaintop in peace and luxury, but he became dissatisfied with his walled in existence and finally ventured out into the world to search for those persons who are altogether happy. To his surprise he discovered that no such person exists in the world. He returned disillusioned to his home in Abyssinia. Is anyone in this world truly happy?

9) “Really happy and was still in their right mind?” There was a Peanuts cartoon years ago in which Lucy asked Charlie Brown if he has ever known anybody who was really happy. Before she could finish her sentence, however, Snoopy came dancing on tiptoe into the frame, his nose high in the air. He danced and bounced his way across two frames of the cartoon strip. Finally, in the last frame, Lucy finished her sentence, “Have you ever known anybody who was really happy and was still in their right mind?”

10) Declaration of Independence: On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, approved Richard Henry Lee’s motion that the thirteen colonies in North America declare their independence from Great Britain and from the rule of King George III. On that July 4, celebrated now as Independence Day, the Congress approved the Declaration. Since then, human history has been punctuated with many such declarations of independence. Over 40 countries on the continent of Africa, more than a dozen newly independent republics in the former Soviet Union, several areas in Eastern Europe and conflicting ethnic groups with differing ideologies in many countries have engaged in civil wars and declared their political independence from those who had controlled them. The clamor for independence can be heard everywhere, from Hong Kong in the east to the Basque country in the west. Independence, self-rule and the prerogative of determining one’s own direction, goals and priorities have perennial appeal for most human beings. But, as is often the case, the readings for today’s liturgy invite us to consider a different perspective. The inspired authors of today’s readings, Jeremiah, Paul and Luke, make a motion, as it were, a motion that each of us should consider making a Declaration of Dependence on God, to receive our true blessing.

11) Battle of Gettysburg: Frederick Buechner tells about watching a scene in the Ken Burns film series on the Civil War. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and veterans from North and South gathered at the battleground to reminisce. At one point, the veterans decided to reenact Pickett’s Charge. All the participants took their positions, and then one side began to charge the other. Instead of swords and rifles, this time the vets carried canes and crutches. As both sides converged, the old men did not fight. Instead they embraced and began to weep. Buechner muses, “If only those doddering old veterans had seen in 1863 what they now saw so clearly fifty years later.” Then he adds: Half a century later, they saw that the great battle had been a great madness. The men who were advancing toward them across the field of Gettysburg were not enemies. They were human beings like themselves, with the same dreams, needs, hopes, the same wives and children waiting for them to come home … What they saw was that we were, all of us, created not to do battle with each other but to love each other, and it was not just a truth they saw. For a few minutes, it was a truth they lived. It was a truth they became. (Frederick Buechner, “Journey Toward Wholeness,” Theology Today 49/4 (January 1993), pp. 454-464.).

12) “If only I had that, I would be happy.” Father Louis Everly, a noted Belgian theologian, priest and writer says that so many people never find happiness because they do not know where to look for it. Too many people make the mistake of seeking one more material thing, one more pay raise, one more promotion, one more problem solved, one more handicap overcome. “If only I had that,” they often say, “I would be happy.” Too late they learn that happiness does not come from the outside but from within. Howard Hughes was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived but he could not buy contentment or peace of mind. That is the first thing that is evident as we view the Beatitudes. Happiness is not synonymous with the pursuit of pleasure.

13) Satan’s Beatitudes: Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in Church – they are my best workers.
Blessed are those who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – I can use them in my business.
Blessed are those who are touchy. Soon they will stop going to Church – verily, they shall be my missionaries.
Blessed are those who sow gossip and trouble – they are my beloved children.
Blessed are those who have no time to pray – for they are MY prey.
Blessed are those who gossip – for they are my secret agents.
Blessed are you when you read this and think it has everything to do with other people, and nothing to do with you – I’ve got room for YOU at my inn.

14) Eight principles for the measure of a person. Some years ago, the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer published an article entitled: “How Do You Measure Up as a Man?” The article stated that some extensive research had been conducted on the 20th century standards for measuring a man. 1) His ability to make and conserve money. 2) The cost, style and age of his car. 3) How much hair he has. 4) His strength and size. 5) The job he holds and how successful he is at it. 6) What sports he likes. 7) How many clubs he belongs to. 8) His aggressiveness and reliability. Jesus Christ also once set down eight principles for the measure of a person. His standards stand in stark contrast to the aforementioned. There would appear to be a wide gulf between the popular image of the successful person and what God sees as the successful person.

15) Final happiness: I like the story of the preacher who met two little boys. After greeting them, he said, “Boys, would you like to go to Heaven?” “Yes, sir!” one responded immediately. “No, sir,” the other boy said honestly. Surprised by such honesty, the preacher asked, “Son, do you mean that eventually you don’t want to go to Heaven?” “I’d like to go eventually,” replied the boy, “but I thought you were getting up a load to go today.” For many people, happiness–like Heaven– is something that is going to come eventually, but it never quite arrives.

16) Beatitudes and the entrance ticket: An elderly man arrives at the pearly gates. St. Peter tells him that the entrance into Heaven requires 100 points and that points will be awarded on the basis of how one has lived on earth. “Well,” said the man proudly, “I was married to the same woman for 60 years and never was tempted to be unfaithful.” “Good, that’s one point” said Saint Peter. “Oh yes, and I served as lector and Eucharistic minister in my parish church, taught Sunday school for thirty years, and helped many missionaries.” “Good,” said Saint Peter, “that gives you three more points.” “Only three points for thirty years of faithful stewardship?” the man protested, “at this rate I won’t get into Heaven.   Don’t you give any points for the beatitudes I practiced in my life by the grace of God?”  “Well, fortunately,” came the reply, “that counts for 100 points!” “Come on in, good boy.”

17) “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you.” On the morning before Bill Clinton took the presidential oath of office, he went to a nearby Church for a prayer service. Someone read the beatitudes during the service. When the reader came to the last two verses, someone observed Mr. Clinton repeating the words of Jesus: 11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” They were good words for a politician to say, particularly on the opening day of what turned out to be a rocky term of office. Any politician who tries to take an occasional stand for what is holy, just, and true can expect persecution, slander, and false accounts. The only reward may be a Heavenly one.

18) “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.U. S. News and World Report carried some sobering statistics sometime back: People who starve to death each year: 11 million. Overweight U.S. adults: 34 million. As a nation we are getting more and more obese. 38 states now have adult obesity rates above 25%. In 1991 no state had an obesity rate above 20%. Average calories consumed daily, North Americans: 3500; Africans: 2100. People who are continually hungry: Ethiopia: 20%, Sudan: 20%, Mozambique: 30-40%, American adults currently on diets: 19% (3) We dare not grow callous to such discrepancies. If we do, then, “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

19) Live and enjoy the beatitudes: I love the story that is told of a factory that was having problems with employees stealing. The company hired a security firm to help with the problem. They had guards posted at all exits and they were to check each employee as they left for the day. They searched their clothing and lunch boxes to make sure they were not taking anything out. Every day one guy came by with a wheelbarrow full of junk. Every day they stopped him and plowed through all of the junk and garbage that was in the wheelbarrow. It took several minutes every day to search through the junk. Every day the same thing – nothing but junk in the wheelbarrow. Finally, the security person said, “Look, fellow, I know something is going on. Every day you come through here and all we find in the wheelbarrow is junk. If you promise to tell me exactly what is going on, I promise not to turn you in. Tell me what is going on.” The fellow grinned and said, “I’m stealing wheelbarrows.” That story has two truths that I want to leave with you: 1) Things may not always be what they seem to be, at least on the outside, and 2) Don’t go looking in junk and garbage for the most obvious answer to the meaning and essence of life. It’s found in God’s Word. It’s found in your heart. As you give your heart and life to Jesus Christ, as you center your entire existence around him, you will have the blissful joy and happiness, the beatitudes Jesus promised.

20) ) “Blessed are you who weep now” : On that tragic Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a New York City parish priest standing on the corner of 14th Street and 1st Avenue witnessed the first terrorist plane plunging into the Twin Towers. “I stood there in shock and disbelief,” says the priest. “Without fully comprehending what was happening, I walked into the Church and said the morning Mass.” Normally, about a hundred persons attend this weekday service. That morning there were several hundred. The Gospel reading for the day was, Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. “Even in the early moments of this world tragedy,” says the priest, “I wondered how these words of Christ could ever be true.”

21) Caution: contents may be hot: Buy a cup of coffee from any fast food restaurant and somewhere on the cup you will likely find these words, CAUTION: CONTENTS MAY BE HOT. What you need to wake you up can also scald your tongue. So beware, say the makers, and keep us all out of court. Something similar could be said about the Beatitudes of Jesus. These formulas for bliss are also bombshells for life. They are flashes of lightning across the landscape of our ordered lives. As William Barclay says, “The Beatitudes of Jesus turn standard values upside down.” So, now that you have been properly warned, here we go. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

22) “Are there any air bags on this plane?” During the last presidential election, you may have seen the comic strip “Frank and Earnest” where Frank is sitting on an airplane with a worried look on his face, and he asks the stewardess, “Are there any air bags on this plane?” She replies, “There are a couple of congressmen up in first class.” By the time the presidential election campaign wound down to its final hours, most of us were eagerly looking forward to a little relief from listening to the air bags. All those speeches that said nothing. All those hours of prime-time television advertising. Really the whole thing could have been carried out much more efficiently. Each of the candidates could have boiled down all their windy rhetoric to one simple slogan. President Obama, for instance, could have just gotten up in front of the television cameras and said, ” “Time for more changes.” Governor Romney would declare: “Taxes and trust.” Think of how much time and money and energy we could have all saved. It’s no wonder politics has such a bad name. The reality is, however, that there’s no part of life that is not concerned with politics. That is why Jesus used condensed ideas. “Congratulations you poor, for yours is the domain of God!” would get us much closer to the real spirit of Jesus’ words. “Congratulations you who are hungry now for your turn is coming to be filled! Congratulations you who weep now, for your time of laughter and joy is coming!”

23) Blessedness of giving: John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was a millionaire at age 23. At the age of fifty, he was a billionaire. He was the richest man in the world, but he was a miserable, rich man. At the age of 53, he was eaten up with physical diseases and ulcers. He was a grabber, not a giver. He was always trying to get more money and he was a greedy man. Greed had so consumed him, that at the age of 53, the doctors told him he had one year to live. Just one year. Here’s a billionaire, the richest man in the world, and all he could eat that year, all that his stomach could handle was milk and crackers. Milk and crackers. The man could go out and buy any restaurant in the world, buy it; he could have any food before him on the table, but it wouldn’t do him much good. It was in that year, that Rockefeller began to look at his life. He said, “I have all these possessions, and I’ve never been a giver.” That’s when he decided to become a giver. He gave to Churches, to hospitals, to foundations, and to medical research. Many of the discoveries we’ve had in medicine have come from money provided by the Rockefeller Foundation. That man who had only one year to live at age 53, began to live, and began to give, and do you know what happened to him? He started releasing all of the internal negative things that were killing him. He got rid of his stress, his tension, and his ulcers, and he lived to the age of ninety, a saint to many.

24) Baseball player accepting tragedy as beatitude: Roy Campanella, the great baseball player, had two such road maps for his life. His successful stint as catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers was right on track, following the path he thought it should. Then, an automobile accident, which left him paralyzed and in a wheel chair, sidelined his career and proved to be a roadblock which also sidetracked his life’s journey. When he was forced to accept and follow the map which reality handed to him, he found strength in the following:

“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey . . .
I asked for health, that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. . .
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise. . .
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God. . .
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. . .
I got nothing I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken words were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed.”

That Campanella was able to recognize the direction his life had taken as a blessing rather than a curse is indicative of a deep and solid Faith. In today’s Scripture readings, the community of believers is challenged to a similar Faith as it examines the blessedness of human need before God. (Sanchez Files). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Campanella

25) Beatitudes experienced and lived by saints: (Rev. Steven D. Greydanus) If we want to understand the way of the Beatitudes, we must look to Christ, but also to the saints, especially those saints who walk the way of smallness and humility — like St. Francis, the “little poor man of Assisi,” whose spiritual biography is called the Fioretti or Little Flowers; and of course the Little Flower herself, Therese of Lisieux, whose spirituality is called the “Little Way,” the little way of spiritual childhood. This is a way of trust and love: of loving confidence in God’s goodness in all circumstances; of deep awareness of our total dependence on Him for all things; of abandonment or surrender of ourselves, our lives, our fortunes, our future, to God’s providence. If we walk this way, we won’t be swayed by the temptations and appeals in the cultural waters around us — for example, to fear and anxiety. A culture that idolizes wealth and strength is a culture of fear and anxiety. We’ll see more of this later in the Sermon on the Mount. To trust in God is to put aside fear and anxiety. I leave you with the words of St. Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

26) War treaties without God: Think about the last century.  The twentieth century began with the most terrible war mankind had ever endured.  Millions were killed in the battlefields.  They called it the Great War.  We call it World War I. In 1919, a hundred years ago, the victorious nations gathered in Versailles to formulate a treaty which, they said, would guarantee that the Great War would be the war to end all wars.  At the time the treaty was signed, the Pope, Pope Benedict XV, said that the treaty and the peace would not work.  There was no mention anywhere in the treaty about trusting in God.  No mention of eternal, spiritual values.  The treaty trusted completely in mankind’s capability to restore peace to the world.  The Pope, as we all know, was correct.  Within twenty years the world was engaged in even a worse war, World War II.   Ultimate reliance upon human capabilities is a sham.  It didn’t work for the people of Jeremiah’s day.  It didn’t work after World War I.  It won’t work today.  The one lesson we need to learn from history is that our only true hope must be in God. The first reading tells us this truth. The Jewish king wanted to compromise the power of the Babylonians through military treaties.  Jeremiah was told by God to proclaim that man could not solve his own problems. But he did not listen, and the result was Babylonian invasion and Babylonian captivity for thousands of Jews for decades. (Msgr Joseph Pellegrino). 

27) Trust in God leading to beatitude in family life:  I’d like to begin with a Valentine story. Back in 1920 a man from Bavaria, Germany, placed this ad in the newspaper: Middle-ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43, immaculate past, from the country, is looking for a good Catholic, pure girl who can cook well, tackle all household chores, with a talent for sewing and homemaking with a view to marriage as soon as possible. Fortune desirable but not a precondition. A woman named Maria Peintner answered the ad. She was 36 years old, a trained cook and the illegitimate daughter of a baker. She did not have a fortune, but even so, they married four months later. Despite their somewhat advanced years they had three children – two boys and a girl. The youngest child received the same name as his father: Joseph Ratzinger. He is better known today as Ex Pope Benedict XVI. I tell their story because this week we celebrated St. Valentine’s Day four days back on the 14th. Joseph and Maria Ratzinger give a beautiful testimony to married love. Their love illustrates what we heard in today’s Scripture readings: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” If a person gets up into their mid-thirties and they have not found that special person, they can feel life has passed them by, maybe even that God has forgotten them. That was not the case with Joseph and Maria Ratzinger. From all we know, they were people of deep faith in God.  Because of their trust in God, they had an admirable marriage and deeply united family. (Fr. Phil Bloom).

28) Elusive beatitude: Two old friends are catching up over drinks at a sidewalk cafe. “How is that you haven’t yet married?” one friend asks the other. “To be perfectly honest,” the friend begins, “I must tell you that I have spent years looking for the perfect woman.  In Barcelona, I met a very beautiful and extremely intelligent woman. For a brief time, I thought I had found the ideal spouse.  But soon I discovered that she was terribly vain and conceited.
“Then, in Boston, I met a woman who was outgoing and generous.  Here is the perfect woman, I thought.  But soon I discovered that she was flighty and irresponsible. “I had just about given up on ever meeting the perfect woman until, one day in Montreal, I met her.  She was incredible!  She was beautiful, intelligent, kind, generous and had a wonderful sense of humor.  She was perfect.” “So why didn’t you marry her?” his friend asked. Fingering his glass, the man replied quietly, “Because she was looking for the perfect man.” (Quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala).

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 14) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit this website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for missed or previous Cycle  C homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.