OT IV [A] Sunday (Jan 29) 8-minute homily in one page (L-23)
Introduction: Today’s readings define our Christian goal of eternal happiness and explain the attitudes and actions necessary to reach it. They form the outline for Christ-like living, noting the personal qualities expected of a disciple of Jesus and pointing out the way of life to be lived by a disciple. They show us the values that Christ cares about. In essence, the Beatitudes both fulfill and complete the Ten Commandments which stress the “Thou shalt nots.” But Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, as the virtues in life which will ultimately lead to the rewards of salvation – not in this world, but in the next.
Scripture lessons: Zephaniah, in the first reading, calls the “moral minority” of the Jews of his time “blessed” because they seek justice, humility, truth, and righteousness, thus making a declaration of dependence on God. In the second reading, Paul advises his Corinthian Christians to use their gifts and Heaven-sent blessings for the good of the community because God has chosen to give them life in Jesus, by whom He justified, sanctified and redeemed them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the blessed in Jesus’ list are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, clean of heart, peace-makers and those who are willing even to be insulted and persecuted for their lived Faith in him Each of the inspired authors of today’s readings, Zephaniah, Paul, and Matthew, “makes a motion,” that each of us should consider making a personal Declaration of Dependence on God and then work with His grace to lead a holier and happier life.
Life messages: 1) We need to respond to the challenge of the Beatitudes in daily life. The Beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice. They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to become the peacemakers in our dealings with one another, in our families, and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes us to ridicule and persecution. 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) We need to choose the 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 that leads to eternal life. The challenge of the beatitudes is: “Are you going to be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?” God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another.
OT IV [A] SUNDAY (Jan 29): Zep 2:3, 3:12-13; I Cor 1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12a
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Beatitude of a scholar kitty: C. L. James in his delightful book, To See a World in a Grain of Sand, tells the fable of a wise old cat who notices a kitten chasing its tail. “Why are you chasing your tail?” said the wise old cat. The kitten replied, “I have learned that the best thing for a cat is happiness, and happiness is my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it, and when I catch it, I shall have happiness.” The wise old cat responded, “My son, I, too, have paid attention to the problems of the universe. I too have judged that happiness is my tail. But, I noticed that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business, it just seems to come after me wherever I go.” — We do not find happiness in material things, in a pill, in a bottle, or by having love affairs. Happiness is something that comes from within us. The only truly happy life is a life lived with God as our life’s Source and our true center. Today’s Gospel asserts that those who have recognized and acknowledged their dependence on God are the truly blessed and that these are the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the lowly, those who hunger and thirst for holiness, the merciful, the single-hearted, the peace-makers and those persecuted for their right convictions. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
#2:Aristotle versus Galileo: “Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men. Although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives’ mouths” (Bertrand Russell, British mathematician, & philosopher). About 400 hundred years ago Galileo argued that Aristotle’s theory on gravity was incorrect. According to Aristotle if you dropped one object weighing ten pounds and another weighing one pound from the same height, the ten-pound object would fall ten times faster than the other. Questioning the greatest ancient authority in science and philosophy, Galileo claimed that both objects would fall at the same speed. But people thought that Galileo was a little crazy. So Galileo climbed up the leaning tower of Pisa and dropped two objects, one heavier than the other, over the edge. To the amazement of the crowd, the heavier object did not fall faster than the lighter one. — You too may have dismissed as wrong, maybe naive, misguided, or possibly even stupid, something you were told, and then may have come to find out afterwards that it was actually true. Well, the Beatitudes announced by Jesus in today’s Gospel might not seem right to us because we equate happiness with power, influence, wealth, health, and beauty. In fact, if anybody other than Jesus had proposed them, we might just have considered them as too extreme. But Jesus meant what he said and practiced what he taught. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 3: Is there anybody who is really happy? In the United States seventy people commit suicide every day and another 1,000 try it. That is 365,000 people every year are unhappy enough to try to snuff out their own existence. Put another way, in your lifetime of 80 years, 29 million people in this country will attempt to end their lives. And the suicide rate is increasing the fastest among young people, rising to nearly 300 percent among those 15 to 24 in the last twenty years. Is there anybody who is really happy? — In today’s Gospel Jesus revels the secret of the true and lasting happiness which makes life worth living. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: Today’s readings define our Christian goal of eternal happiness and explain the attitudes and actions necessary to reach it. In the Beatitudes, Jesus outlines the values and attitudes needed to enter and enjoy God’s kingdom: poverty of spirit, hunger and thirst for justice, compassion, meekness, mercy, integrity, peace-making, and the willingness to suffer persecution for the sake of justice. The Beatitudes contain the most essential aspects of Christian behavior that we need to make habitual if we are to live the truly Christ-like lives of loving obedience and compassion that He asks of all of us who believe. The Beatitudes spell out the personal qualities expected of a disciple of Jesus and the way of life to be lived by Jesus’ disciples. They show us the values that Christ cares about. In essence, the Beatitudes both fulfill and complete the Ten Commandments. While the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai, as recorded in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, provide a series of “Thou shalt nots,” Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, as the virtues in life which will ultimately lead us to the rewards of salvation – not in this world, but in the next. Zephaniah, in the first reading, calls the “moral minority” of the Jews of his time “blessed” because they seek justice, humility, truth, and righteousness, thus making a declaration of dependence on God. In the second reading, Paul advises his Corinthian Christians to use their gifts and Heaven-sent blessings for the good of the community because God has chosen to give them life in Jesus, by whom He justified, sanctified, and redeemed them. In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the “blessed” on Jesus’ list are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, clean of heart, peace-makers, and those who are willing even to be insulted and persecuted for their lived Faith in Him. Each of the inspired authors of today’s readings, Zephaniah, Paul, and Matthew, “makes a motion,” that each of us should consider making a personal Declaration of Dependence on God, and then work (with His grace) to lead holier, happier lives.
The first reading (Zep 2:3, 3:12-13) explained: Zephaniah prophesied in Jerusalem during a time when many in that city were faithless and corrupt. Most of the book of the prophet Zephaniah is about the terrible Day (“The Day of the Lord”) when the Lord will wreak vengeance upon idolaters and the unfaithful. But this passage describes a “remnant,” a humble and just minority, who will receive, not vengeance, but security. Both Jesus and Zephaniah address this remnant, or “moral minority.” They want their listeners not to choose the path of arrogance, not even to pine for power, but to “seek justice … seek humility, do no wrong, speak no lies (Zephaniah), and to “thirst for righteousness, be merciful, be peace-makers” (Jesus).
The second reading (I Cor 1:26-31) explained: Two things about the situation in Corinth made it necessary for Paul to remind the Christians there of their humble station and of his own humble apostolic status: 1) Corinth was a Greek metropolis with philosophers placing a high premium on knowledge and sophistication; and 2) the Christians there enjoyed an abundance of what are called charisms, or spiritual gifts including some extraordinary powers like healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. Paul advised these Christians to use their gifts and heaven-sent blessings for the good of the community, not just for their own aggrandizement, and he reminded them of the contrast between Christ’s values and the world’s values.
Gospel exegesis: Source of real happiness: Today’s readings tell us that real happiness lies in what are known as “the Beatitudes.” “Beatitudes” are technically known as “macarisms,” (blessings – from the Greek makarios, meaning “blessed” or “happy”). These beatitudes echo Isaiah 61:1-2. Other examples of macarisms can be found in the Book of Proverbs, 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. Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses who teaches us from the mountain that Christianity is more than obeying the Ten Commandments. The Sermon on the Mount is almost surely a collection of Jesus’ teachings rather than a sermon delivered in one sitting. The beatitudes of Jesus were taught in Aramaic. They are not simple statements; rather they are exclamations, i.e., ”O! The blessedness of the poor in spirit!” (Compare Psalm 1 for a similar Hebrew version.) Matthew presents the Beatitudes as coming at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. He gives eight Beatitudes (the ninth being explanation of the eighth).
Bombshells: In both Matthew and Luke, the Beatitudes are a “series of bombshells” or “flashes of lightning followed by thunder of surprise and shock” because Jesus reverses our “natural” assumption that happiness lies in riches, power, pleasure, and comfort. We believe in personal pride; Jesus blesses poverty of spirit. We seek pleasure; Jesus blesses those who mourn. We see the prosperity of aggressive people; Jesus blesses the meek. We love good food and drink; Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. He challenges his listeners to find fulfillment of their needs in God, in their particular socio-economic context. The peasants, the farm workers, and the artisans of the villages in Palestine were the oppressed class. The majority of them had no political power or rights. In contrast to them were the rich and powerful, who owned most of the land, collaborated with the hated Romans, controlled the Temple cult, and interpreted the laws of God. Jesus addresses this situation in his Beatitudes.
Christ is the center of the beatitudes: Each beatitude looks at the Christian life from a different perspective. Matthew’s first beatitude with its “the poor in spirit” ( 5:3 ) is the best known and perhaps the most difficult to interpret. Matthew’s “in spirit” indicates that these “poor” make no claim on God. Matthew’s eight beatitudes expand on the first. The mourners will experience God’s comfort (v. 4). The meek demonstrate a Christ-like attitude that demands nothing for itself. Thus the meek with Jesus shall inherit the earth (v. 5). Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (v. 6) desire God’s saving righteousness in Christ. The mercy Christians show to others (v. 7) must be that of Christ, who showed mercy to his tormentors ( Luke 23:34 ). In the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer Christians pray that God will forgive them, just as they forgive others ( Matt 6:12 ). “Seeing God” is reserved to Christ ( John 1:18 ), but now the pure in heart will see God with him (v. 8). The Gospels reserve the phrase “Son of God” to Jesus alone, but the peace-makers show themselves to be reconciled to God, and all people are now entitled to a like honor in being called the sons of God (v. 9). The eighth beatitude follows the first with its promise of the kingdom of heaven, Christ’s pledge that they will participate in his suffering and glory. (https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/beatitudes/)
The first set of four beatitudes: Happiness of the poor in spirit, the gentle, the mourners and the righteous. Being poor in spirit is the fundamental condition for becoming blessed and happy. Jesus is not extolling the virtue of poverty but the virtues of Faith and trust in God because He is our ultimate Source of security. We are blessed when we know our need for God and do His will every day. We are poor in spirit when we surrender our plans to God and ask for His help. We are poor in spirit when we admit our sins, mourn for them repenting, ask His grace and forgiveness for them, and promise to “sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin.” The poor in spirit also hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus’ blessing of the poor would have been Good News to the first disciples, who had “left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:11).
Jesus also tells us that if we are to be happy we need to be meek – gentle, self-controlled and God-controlled. The meek are those who have made a complete surrender of self to God, instead of becoming aggressive, demanding, and assertive. Meekness or gentleness is the ability to be angry with the right people about the right things at the right time to the right degree, e.g., Moses. True meekness allows us to fight for justice using peaceful means, as did Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Lenin is reported to have said on his death bed: “If I had ten young men like Francis of Assisi I could have averted the Bolshevik Revolution.” Jesus says that we will be blessed when we hunger and thirst for what is right. To be righteous means to do the will of God. We are hungering and thirsting for righteousness when we have a profound respect for others and want to treat them with dignity. So, when we see other people abused in one way or another, we hunger and thirst to see their dignity respected.
The second set of beatitudes: The happiness of the merciful, pure of heart, peace-makers and the persecuted. The second set of four beatitudes in Matthew 5:7-10 promise rewards in life after death to people who practice virtuous behavior. Giving unconditional forgiveness and showing the honesty and humility to ask pardon for our offenses against others are signs of a merciful heart and are essential for peace and joy of spirit. Mercy is love extended, not out of necessity, but given through the desire to help. Jesus gave the example of the forgiving love of a merciful heart from the cross by praying for his executioners. As long as we hold something in our hearts against somebody we are neither free nor happy. Hence, let us forgive and forget and be merciful. Mercy is also the ability to identify with others, to be willing to suffer with them and to walk in their shoes. What Jesus meant about being pure in heart is that we cannot be happy if we are hypocrites. The pure in heart are morally pure, honest, and sincere. The real accent in Matthew’s sixth beatitude is on integrity. We should be people of integrity and character. The pure of heart will see God in their here-and-now ability to discern His presence in others and in the small and ordinary events of their lives.
Instead of merely longing for peace in the world we must be peace-makers in the little world around us. Peace-making demands positive actions for reconciliation. Making peace involves proclamation, diplomacy, self-control, and a willingness to forgive, to forget, and to promote the work of forgiveness among others. Peace-makers work for “shalom”– the wholeness and well-being that God wills for a broken world. Shalom means “May you be blessed by the presence of all good things!” Finally, Jesus said we will be happy if people and systems persecute us for our Faith and loving, Christian conduct, because Jesus’ enemies persecuted him for the same reasons. Early Christians were persecuted for a variety of reasons. The Jews persecuted them as heretics. The Jews and the Romans falsely accused the Christians of immoral practices. The words of the Last Supper, “This is my Body…. This is my Blood,” led to charges of cannibalism. The Agape (Love Feast) and the kiss of peace led to charges of sexual immorality. Apocalyptic literature, like the book of Revelation, led to charges of sedition. Today, Christians face persecution in different forms all around the world. Internally, adherence to Christ’s values means persecution by our own rebellious, selfish desires.
The Beatitudes versus Liberation theology: If the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful and the hated are all blessed, then why should anyone attempt to help them improve their lot? Indeed, that was the argument often used by previous generations who had not been exposed to the “Theology of Liberation.” God, so runs this argument, has ordained that the poor should be content with their lot. They claim that a person who has absolutely no possessions is free to seek God alone. But they ignore the difference between choosing poverty and being plunged into it without one’s choice, due to the unjust socio-political situation. Only a few saints, such as Francis of Assisi, chose the sufferings and hardships that poverty brings. Perhaps what Christ is really telling us is that we should work to improve the conditions of the poor in order for the poor to have a choice. They have the right to choose whether or not to embrace poverty, rather than having it thrust upon them by greedy exploiters.
“The heart of Christ’s teaching:” The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the importance of the Beatitudes as “the heart of Christ’s teaching.” “The Beatitudes describe our relationship to the Kingdom in three ways. First, these simple promises address our highest desire: happiness with God. For, only God can satisfy the heart. Second, they describe the path to God for us as individuals and together as a Church. Through the Beatitudes, we share God’s very life (sanctifying grace) because we enter into His Kingdom. Finally, they challenge us to live moral lives by putting God first. If we want to know what it truly means to be a Christian, we should read the Beatitudes in Matthew” (CCC #1716-#1724).
Life messages: 1) We need to respond to the challenge of the Beatitudes in daily life. Millions of starving, persecuted, homeless people lead hopeless lives. The Beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice. They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to people who become the peace-makers in their dealings with one another, in their families and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes them to ridicule and persecution. “As long as you did it to/for one of these, my least brethren, you did it to/for me” is the criterion for our Last Judgment. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) and her Sisters, Brothers and Priests, accepted this challenge and demonstrate that one 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. 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. Such enterprises represent a wonderful outpouring of good will and Christian faithfulness in response to the challenge of the beatitudes. Let us have the good will to participate in such activities in our parish and in our community. 2) We need to choose the 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 that leads to eternal life. 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. Sometimes we think that good health, long life, happy relationships, and a good job are blessings we “deserve” for being honest, not cheating on our taxes, coming to Church, and giving a little to charity. This is the easy way of the world. But the hard way of Jesus requires of us toil and suffering in working for the poor, the sick, and the hungry. God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for each another. Doing so yields an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (II Cor. 4:17). In the final analysis, the blessing of the Beatitudes is the possession of “the Kingdom of God.”
JOKES OF THE WEEK: 1) Beatitude in Heaven: Fr. Charlie was teaching his Sunday school class. He asked the class, “If I were to sell my house and my car, have a big garage sale and give all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven?” “NO!” the children all answered. “If I were to do all my priestly duties well, and practice the Beatitudes in my life, would that get me into Heaven?” the Pastor asked. Again, the answer was, “NO!” “Well, then, if I were to be kind to animals, give candy to all the children, and love and serve my parish, would that get me into Heaven?” Again, the answer was, “NO!” “Well”, he continued, “then how can I get into Heaven?” Five-year-old little Johnny shouted out, “First you have to die.”
3) Beatitude in marriage: In his book, On This Day, Carl D. Windsor includes this anecdote: Even the most devoted couple will experience a “stormy” bout once in a while. A grandmother, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she said. A guest asked the woman what some of the faults she had chosen to overlook were. The grandmother replied, “To tell you the truth, my dear, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!’”– Today, the words of the Beatitudes invite us to consider anew our dependence on God, to acknowledge Him as the Supreme Authority in our lives, and to recognize in Him the Source of our identity and happiness.
4) A famous preacher once told his congregation, “Every blade of grass is a sermon.” — A few days later, a parishioner saw him mowing his lawn. ‘That’s right, Father,’ the man said, ‘cut your sermons short.’ (Catholic homilies).
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups) (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).
1) Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies
2) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)
3) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)
4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
5) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/
6) Catholic answers: http://www.catholic.com/
7) For articles on various theological topics: http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/
8) Online Christian classical books: http://www.ccel.org/index/classics.html
9) www.mcgill.pvt.k12.al.us/jerryd/cathmob.htm: (This site is a veritable theological library with links from Catholic teaching to Catholic art.)
” Scriptural Homilies” no. 11 (A) by Fr. Tony firstname.lastname@example.org
20 Additional anecdotes:
1) Happiness & unhappiness: 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) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) “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. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “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.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) 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 exhausting meetings, the doctors were unable to come to a consensus. It seems that their areas of concern were too diverse. Among the group were a cancer specialist, a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a psychiatrist, and each approached the problem from the perspective of his own discipline. The chest expert was concerned about coal dust from the mines and lint produced by textile mills, while the psychiatrist was concerned about the effects off urban stress. — Finally, Dr. Harold Sladen of a famous 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.’”(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) 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, 19845) — The Catholic Church had to wait for years, only naming him as a saint in 2010. But people who knew Father Damien called him “happy” or “blessed.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) 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 — all 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 a 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. (Rev. King Duncan) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) Is anyone in this world truly happy? Samuel Johnson once wrote a story entitled “Rasselas” in which the main character, an Abyssinian prince, lived on a mountaintop in peace and luxury but became dissatisfied with his walled-in existence and finally ventured out into the world to search for those persons who were altogether happy. To his surprise he discovered that no such person existed in the world. He returned, disillusioned, to his home in Abyssinia — Is anyone in this world truly happy? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “Really happy and was still in their right mind?” There was a Peanuts cartoon years ago in which Lucy asked Charlie Brown if he had 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?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) 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, Zephaniah, Paul, and Matthew, make a motion, as it were, a motion that each of us should consider making a personal Declaration of Dependence on God, to receive our true blessing. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) 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).] (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “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. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) 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. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) 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. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) 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. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) Secret of happiness: Barbara L. Frederickson, Ph.D., has spent fifteen years studying happiness, and she has reached the conclusion that happiness comes from finding positive meaning in the things that happen to us. You get a flat tire on the way to work. Bad experience. You have a great conversation with the mechanic who comes to fix your flat. Good experience. Your presentation at work didn’t wow your colleagues as much as you had hoped it would. Bad experience. You learn valuable lessons from your failure that you can use in making your next presentation. Good experience. — People who find positive meaning, even in bad experiences, are happier and more resilient than are people who only focus on their bad experiences. (Rev. Frank Lyman.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) City of Joy: City of Joy is the title of a novel (and a movie based on it), written by a European Doctor who came to live in the Calcutta slum, Anand Nagar (City of Joy). Describing the naked or half-naked slum children playing in the rain and mud, he says that the rich children living in the city mansions can never be happy like these poor kids. — “Happy are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” (Joe Vempeny). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) “I’d give it to the poor.” During the Great Depression in America, a government agency had the task of travelling through isolated mountain areas, in search of poor farmers, to whom they would give some grant of money for the purchase of seed, or repairing their homes. One agent came upon an old woman living in a shack. It had no floor. Several windows were broken and covered over with tar paper. The old woman had but the basic essentials, and was just barely scratching out a living on a miserable plot of land. The agent said to her, “If the government gave you $200, what would you do with it?” Her instant answer was: “I’d give it to the poor.” — It is a mistake for a religious to think of money as riches. In spite of the lack of it, this good woman does not consider herself poor. Millions of good people are really rich, while having little money. On the other hand, one could have plenty of money, and be really poor.(Indian Thoughts Archives) (Joe Vempeny). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) 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) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) 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) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) 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 lives. 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? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/23
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 13) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C & A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604