Many requests have come in for a reprint of Archbishop Schnurr’s homily from last night’s Cast Your Nets! He has graciously agreed to allowing it to be printed here.
The gospel we have just heard are the opening lines of the Sermon on the Mount which, in the Gospel of Matthew, is the first major instruction of Jesus in His public ministry. These opening lines are customarily referred to as the Beatitudes. Each of the Beatitudes begins with the word “Blessed,” as in “Blessed are the poor in spirit” or “Blessed are the meek.”
Because Jesus spoke in the Aramaic language, sometimes it is difficult to find a word in the English language that conveys all the meaning of the words that He used. Thus, some translations of the Bible use the word “happy” instead of the word “blessed,” as in “Happy are those who mourn.” This, however, seems to set up a contradiction. By definition, isn’t a person who is mourning unhappy?
To understand better the Beatitudes, we need to go back to the culture of Jesus’ time. In the original language and cultural mindset of Jesus’ time, to make a strong statement automatically implied that the hearer should consider its opposite. Only then would the full meaning begin to emerge.
Thus, “Happy are the poor in spirit,” becomes “Miserable are those attached to earthly possessions.” And isn’t it true that an inordinate attachment to material things brings all kinds of misery, such as jealousy, workaholism, and even fear of loss? Rather than being dependant on material things, the poor in spirit have reverence for God and child-like trust in Him.
“Happy are those who mourn” becomes “Miserable are those who can never let go.” Mourning is a natural and healthy process, by which we bring closure when we experience a loss. If people are unable to let go, however, it means they can never stop living in the past. They are unable to start over. They cannot look forward again. Those who mourn have a correct estimation of worldly events and are aware of God’s ever-present love.
“Happy are the meek” becomes “Miserable are the arrogant.” The meek will inherit the earth – it will be freely given to them. On the other hand, those who bully others can only take. They will not be “given” anything. Meekness is not weakness, but humility and faith in God especially during trails.
“Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” becomes “Miserable are those who hunger and thirst for evil things.” People can try to fill themselves up with all sorts of “stuff” – food, drugs, alcohol, money, fame – but in the end these leave the person even more empty. A fulfilled life does not get filled from the outside, but has a fullness that comes from the inside.
“Happy are the merciful” becomes “Miserable are the merciless.” People who bear grudges, who refuse to forgive, and who take revenge, are prisoners of their own hate. It eventually poisons all their relationships. The merciful imitate God by forgiving their neighbor and seeking to remedy injustices in the world.
“Happy are the pure in heart” becomes “Miserable are those who take things for granted.” Purity of heart is often interpreted to mean sexual purity, and it does mean that; but, in a broader sense, it means the ability to focus on what is really important in the present moment. One who is pure in heart exercises proper understanding, the gift of insight into what truly matters.
“Happy the peacemakers” becomes “Miserable are who create bitterness and division.” There are people in this world who have a deep need to feel offended, or to offend others. Peacemakers get to be a part of the grand family of the “children of God.” Those who foster bitterness and division, on the other hand, end up alone and lonely. The peacemaker is able to see the world as God sees it, and this brings personal peace.
“Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” becomes “Miserable are those who have no courage.” It isn’t always easy to stand up for what is right – yes, we can wind up persecuted. But who will ever trust us with what is truly important if we do not have the inner strength to hold on to it in the first place?
Everyone wants to be happy, and what we should learn from the Beatitudes is that God also wants us to be happy. He created us to be happy. But the happiness He offers us is not mere human contentment. It is a happiness that stems from the realization that proper order is being restored to our lives.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus taught the Beatitudes while on a mountain. This is not an accident, and is meant to evoke the image of Moses, who descended from Mount Sinai holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were given to help the people understand what they must do to restore their life-fulfilling relationship with God, a relationship that had been lost due to the sin of Adam and Eve. The Beatitudes are often considered to be the completion of the Law of God. The Ten Commandments tell us what we are to do and what we are not to do in order that our relationship with God might be restored. The Beatitudes tell us why!
The happiness that the Beatitudes promise is the happiness that was experienced by Adam and Eve before their sin. The Book of Genesis tells us that they walked with God each day and that they lived in perfect harmony with one another and the world around them. Their happiness stemmed from an awareness of their perfect relationship with God, with one another, and with the world in which they lived. All of this was shattered because of sin.
The Beatitudes tell us that true happiness is once again possible, not only in the life hereafter, but here and now. It is not as the world understands happiness; but then sin turned the world upside down, and the whole purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to set things right again. Thus, He proclaims in the Gospel of John, “all of this I tell you that my joy may be yours and your joy be complete.” (Jn. 15:11) Complete joy, complete happiness! Who doesn’t want that?! This is what Jesus promises us; and by beginning His ministry with the Beatitudes, He tells us that He will show us how to get there.
Does your parish include prayers for vocations during the Prayer of the Faithful (aka the Intercessions)?
No? Why not?
(As I told the server at the funeral this morning: NO EXCUSES!)
Today, in the Roman Calendar, features the memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. Yesterday, the Church celebrated two others: Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian; also both Martyrs for Christ. This past Monday, St. Anthony of the Desert took the top step in the choir of saints; while not a martyr in the strictest sense, he certainly livd out the faith of the martyrs in a strong denial of self to be united wtih Christ.
While all four of these early saints are fairly well known, in the reforms of the Roman Missal that have occured since 2000, several of their contemporaries were re-added to the Universal Calendar by Pope John Paul II; their feast days showing up periodically throughout the calendar.
Why would JPII, who was so intent on making saints from every corner of the world, ‘resurrect’ the cult of these ancient saints? Read More
Prayer for Vocations
You have created us for some definite purpose.
Grant us the grace to know the path
You have planned for us in this life
and to respond with a generous “Yes.”
Make our archdiocese, parishes, homes and hearts
fruitful ground for Your gift of vocations.
May our young people respond to Your call
with courage and zeal.
Stir among our men a desire and the strength
to be good and holy priests.
Bless us with consecrated religious and those called to a
chaste single life, permanent deacons,
and faithful husbands and wives,
who are a sign of Christ’s love for His Church.
We commend our prayer for vocations to You, Father,
through the intercession of Mary our Mother,
in the Holy Spirit,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr
Tragedy is something we all deal with in our lives and has great religious implications. When we are faced with tragedy, the question always seems to pop up somewhere, “Where is God in this?” At this point we go one of two ways: we lose faith, unable to find God in the bad and so deny His existence in the good, or we, through prayer, come to a closer relationship to God because of our trial through fire.
Just as undergoing tragedy is something all human persons go through in each of our respective lives, so too has the Church gone through tragedy. We see this especially clearly today as the Church laments the harm done to individuals by her priests. But on this Feast of the Holy Innocents, we recall with pain in our hearts that same pain she felt and grappled with throughout history. Read More
I began a homily recently with the question of what makes for a good liturgy? What consistutes a well done celebration of the Mass?
Well trained servers? A prolific and dynamic homily? Music that is performed with acumen, skill and transcendence? Well trained and practiced proclaimers of the Word?
When someone walks out of the parish church, what should be their standard as to make them think: ‘Wow, that was a great Mass!’?
All of those things listed above are part of ‘it,’ but in reality they only reflect what ‘it’ is. Read More
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