29 January 20174 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - Matthew 5:1-12

Some years ago New York magazine listed outstanding New Yorkers. There was but one Catholic mentioned. She was Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker. For fifty years, she practiced the Beatitudes daily in her House of Hospitality in New York City. She fed, clothed, and housed the poor. She practiced the Beatitudes so well that secular editors saluted her. She was our "tainted nature's solitary boast." Why were there not more Catholic New Yorkers on the list? There are a million in New York City. A woman came to Jesus saying, "I can give you nothing but myself." Christ replied, "Then you have given me everything." The Beatitudes are the owner's manual Jesus gave to each of us at Baptism. Note the Beatitudes refer to the world we live in and not the life hereafter. No people had to take a dictionary with them when they went to hear the Beatitudes. (Elijah Brown)

The Gospel opens in Galilee in northern Palestine. Were Jesus to return to the province, He would find it unchanged. Its terrain would bring happy memories to Him. This area gave Him the colorful title - the Eternal Galilean. For twenty centuries, Christ followers have struggled to practice the Beatitudes. Some have achieved splendidly the goals of Christ. The majority of us have not done well. But nothing beats a try but a failure. (Unknown) Those who would climb to loft heights must go by steps, not leaps. (Unknown) We can take consolation from TS Eliot, "For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business." The Beatitudes outlined in today's Gospel were portions of a longer talk of Jesus. The whole talk is called the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are called the Charter of Christianity and the Magna Carta for humanity.

If you journey to Israel, you find guides working on the principle that paying customers should be kept happy. They will point out to you the mountain where the Beatitudes were first spoken to a spellbound crowd. But scholars do not know the precise spot. Jesus spoke these famous words in the second year of His public ministry. So perhaps we talk about 28 AD. The eight Beatitudes are considered many slices of one brilliant emerald. There is little to distinguish them one from the other. The Nazarene could have added or subtracted one and still the total message would be the same. No one would have been wiser. The Beatitudes were given not to increase our knowledge but change our lives. (DL Moody) James Lowell wished Christ had added, "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused. Blessed are they who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it." Nor would Jesus pull your leg by claiming He was the first to enunciate these principles. Cicero, who died in 43 BC, penned, "There is nothing that makes a man more like God than mercy." The spinal cord of the Beatitudes is love. This is our love of God as well as belief in His love for us.

But also it includes love of neighbor. Important too in this formula is love of one's self. It is difficult and perhaps impossible to love others if we dislike ourself.. The God of the Old Testament required of his people justice. That is the same justice commanded of us by tax collectors. (Andrew Greely) With the Beatitudes, the modus operandi has evolved to a new level. God through His Son asks us for love. We are asked to help the other fellows even though they don't deserve it. We are invited to be generous with money even though we have mortgage payments. From what we get, we make a living. From what we give we make a life. (Arthur Ashe) God the Father said, "Thou shalt not do evil." His Son says, "Thou shalt do good."

The former is the Silver Rule. The latter the Golden Rule. Why was Dorothy Day a saint? She was cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when difficult to be patient, pushed on when she wanted to stand still, kept silent when she wanted to talk, and stayed agreeable when she wanted to be disagreeable. It was quite simple and always will be. (Unknown) To paraphrase GK Chesterton, one cannot argue that the Beatitudes have been tried and found wanting. Rather, they have been found hard and not tried. If you need courage to practice the Beatitudes, think of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's words: "We are fools for Christ's sake...We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. Jesus is greater than our greatest problem." 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Today’s Gospel presents the Beatitudes. I want to hone in on one of these: Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. That always seemed to me to be a strange blessing. When I hear this, I sometimes think of people in a funeral home crying at the death of a loved one. Is the Lord saying that a person is blessed because the person is in grief? That cannot be possible. God isn't happy when we have pain. Perhaps we are being encouraged to share in the grief of others, not to let people be alone in their grief. Certainly the Lord blesses people who leave the comfort of their lives to be exposed to other people's pain. But this beatitude is a lot deeper than that. Do you remember when Jesus said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Mat 23:37) Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the center of God's chosen people refused to recognize the presence of the Messiah.

He wept over Jerusalem because the people there were more concerned with their possessions and their lives than with the presence of God among them. He wept over Jerusalem because the people thought they were self sufficient. He wept over Jerusalem because he could see the destruction their own actions were bringing on themselves. Blessed are those who weep, they shall be comforted. This is the reason why the Church has an active role in encouraging morality in our nation. When we see recognize that a particular public policy is immoral, we weep over the destruction these actions bring upon our country. So to the many people, both within and outside of the Church, who ask, "Why does the Church make a statement which has to do with the laws of our country?" we answer, "We do this because we love our country, and we weep over what our country is doing to itself. Some will inevitably go on to say, "Church and State should remain separate." I'm sure you have been faced with that statement. First of all, to get historical regarding the United States, the separation of Church and State was put into the American Constitution to protect various religions from interference by the country. There would be no one state religion in the United States. Nor would certain faiths be excluded because they had not been recognized by the American constitution. The government would not pick leaders of the various denominations. Nor would it force people to attend Church services. Without demanding adherence to a particular religion, the Founding Fathers recognized the need for God's guidance in the country. They put the words "In God We Trust" on our coins.

The separation of Church and State has nothing to do with our need to seek God's guidance for the nation. Therefore, when the bishops make a statement, such as the document on nuclear war, the document on poverty and justice, the statements on fair labor practices, the statements on family values, or as when the Church speaks out about abortion, infanticide, capital punishment, euthanasia, etc. the intent of the Church is to direct the country in ways of morality. We can't be Polly-annas, blindly optimistic, and refuse to see evil among us or do anything about evil among us. We weep at the self destruction of our country. Therefore: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

There is another problem here. We have only one life, not two lives. We are Catholic citizens. We are not Catholic here and citizens there. For our whole lives we have heard the Church saying that what takes place in our Sunday worship must be reflected in our daily lives. If we are going to speak to each other about the Love of God in church Sunday, then we need to be living the love of God in the way we treat other people during the week. The problem is that some people act as though they are two different people, saying one thing in Church and acting in a completely opposite way in public. That is hypocrisy. Just as it is wrong for a person to be a fine family man in Church on Sunday and be cheating on his wife during the week, it is also wrong for a person to claim certain convictions in Church and others outside of Church. Indeed, the well hacked out statement, "I am opposed to this personally but would not publically oppose this." simply translates into "I do not have the courage to stand by my convictions." Jesus wept over Jerusalem because he could see the destruction the actions of the people were bringing on themselves. We, in the Church, weep for our country over those areas that are leading the country to moral decay. Therefore, we speak out. Blessed are we who mourn, for we shall be comforted.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
4 Ordinary Time
Hidden Wisdom Week 1- Beatitudes (January 29, 2017)
Message: Consider the hidden wisdom of the Beatitudes: Whatever difficulties, trials and suffering you are facing, life up Jesus and he will lift you up.

It is good to be back with you after my time in Peru. I am grateful to Fr. Valencia, Deacon Gene, Sister Barbara and all of you for making this pilgrimage possible. I did take your prayers and intentions with me especially at the tombs of the great Peruvian saints - Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres. While in Peru I reflected on the readings for the five Sundays between now and the beginning of Lent. A common theme jumped out: Hidden Wisdom. We see it particularly in St. Paul and the Gospels.

Let me begin with a clarification: Even though God gives us a hidden wisdom we do not look down on ordinary wisdom. The Second Vatican Council teaches that we can benefit from the wisdom of Confucius, the Buddha, Islam and even native religions. For example the Inca religion had these three basic precepts: ama sua, ama llulla, ama quella (don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t be lazy). If we put those three precepts into practice it would bring blessings of prosperity and happiness. We treasure inherited wisdom not only because it makes our lives better but because ultimately it comes from God. We see this wisdom in Old Testament books like Proverbs, Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon.

You can find similar wisdom in Plato, Virgil, Shakespeare and other great works of literature. Today unfortunately we find ourselves cut off from this great inheritance. About the best we seem to do are pithy sayings that find their way onto Facebook! Still, let´s not look down on wisdom wherever it come from. We need it more than ever. Along with ordinary wisdom, we have something more: hidden wisdom. Through Jesus we receive hidden wisdom. St. Paul reminds us that few of us are intellectuals or high born or powerful.

God chooses weak common folk, the ones the world looks down on. He joins us to his Son Jesus and from Christ we receive a hidden wisdom. We see that hidden wisdom in today's Gospel - the Beatitudes. We've heard them so often that they tend to have a soothing quality but really they should jar us. Jesus describes things that people naturally avoid: poverty, bankruptcy, loss of loved ones, sexual abstinence, insults, getting put down with no way of getting back, becoming a laughing stock. When these things happen to you, says Jesus, count yourself blessed.

Why this is so we will see more in the coming weeks. During Advent and Christmas time, many of you joined me in learning from Matthew Kelly about how we resist happiness. His book has power because it gets us in touch with the hidden wisdom of Jesus. Matthew Kelly shows how God uses trials and sufferings - the things Jesus describes in the Beatitudes - God uses them to help us become the best versions of ourselves. We will see more next week when Jesus tells us to become salt and light - and St. Paul explains why he decided to preach nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. For today I ask you to consider the hidden wisdom of the Beatitudes: Whatever difficulties, trials and suffering you are facing, life up Jesus and he will lift you up. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic Matthew 5: 1-12a
Gospel Summary
The eight Beatitudes of Matthew's gospel open his lengthy Sermon on the Mount. They are especially noteworthy because they strike the keynote for all that follows in that Sermon. Moreover, the first Beatitude strikes the keynote also for the seven Beatitudes that follow.

The decisive word in this first Beatitude is the word, "poor.” Its meaning is derived from a Hebrew word meaning "an afflicted one.” It was first applied, therefore, to those Jews of the immediate pre-Christian era who were economically and politically powerless but who continued to hope in God even though he seemed to have abandoned them. They were often poor in an economic sense but their more basic poverty was in terms of power and control.

Jesus makes the daring statement that these downtrodden ones should in fact be declared blessed, i.e. fortunate. What could possibly justify such a radical and apparently nonsensical conclusion? Jesus certainly does not intend to bless powerlessness as such. However, he does affirm the blessedness of those who, because they are powerless, are saved from the illusion that worldly power can in fact give them (and us) us the only truly important and lasting gifts, such as, love, happiness and life itself. Being delivered from that disastrous illusion, they are called blessed or fortunate because they are then free to turn to God, who is ready and willing to give them the Kingdom.

Matthew specifies this as poverty "in spirit” because it is essentially an attitude of humility and trust in the presence of God. Life Implications The ideal presented here must not be mistaken for an unhappy passivity or timidity in the presence of the challenges of this life. Rather, it liberates us from self-centered and self-serving efforts, which will ultimately prove unproductive, so that we may be present to others in a loving, caring and helpful way.

This is summed up neatly in the seemingly paradoxical but very true statement, "The only gift we can keep is the one we give away!” Or, in gospel language, "What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life” (Mark 8:36)? The remaining seven Beatitudes are really echoes of this primary one. Those who "mourn” are those who dare to become vulnerable through loving…and thereby find the secret of happiness. The "meek” renounce power and violence as a means of acquiring happiness…and thus are candidates for true happiness.

Those who "hunger for justice” have a passion for the reforms that will enable everyone to live and dream. Those who are "merciful” renounce anger and vengeance as they offer forgiveness. The "clean of heart” are the sincere and truthful ones who reject all that is mere sham and pretense in life. The "peacemakers” promote forgiveness and reconciliation as the only sure way to peace. And those who are "persecuted” are those who persevere in the pursuit of these ideals in spite of ridicule from others who seem to be the wise and prudent ones. Thus, the Beatitudes represent a program for true holiness and happiness through the wisdom of the gospel rather than through the misguided wisdom of purely secular philosophy. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Fourth Sunday of the Year, Modern Lectionary 70 Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12A
The virtues of humility and gentleness are clearly the keynotes of this Sunday’s scripture readings. The prophet Zephaniah begins by exhorting us, "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth…seek justice, seek humility” (Zeph 2:3); the Psalmist then praises the Lord for upholding many who are trodden under by the secular world—the orphans, widows, the poor, the blind, the wounded, and the oppressed. For his part even St. Paul, who long struggled with pride, reminds the Corinthians: "Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor 1:26-27). Of course these readings lead up to and support the sublime words of Jesus in the beatitudes, found in the "Sermon on the Mount”. There, among other moving words of wisdom, he teaches: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land” (Matt 5:5).

The term rendered here in English as "meek” can also rightly be understood as "gentle” and it is translated as such elsewhere in the Bible. It occurs as an adjective, "gentle,” four times in the New Testament and twelve more times it is used in its noun form, "gentleness”. Taking all sixteen occurrences of this word family together we find that in most cases the words "gentle” or "gentleness” are used to describe the way every Christian ought to live—the term is used in this way in the beatitudes. The few cases in which a specific person is described by means of these terms should catch our attention and give us cause to reflect on our own attempt to be "gentle”. The reason I say this is that the only particular "persons” so described as meeting the standard of being truly "meek” or "gentle” are the Lord Jesus (Matt 11:29; 21:5) and the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:23)—impressive company indeed! What this should tell us is that gentleness is a characteristic not of cringing or weak people, but of those who are fundamentally strong.

Further, they are strong in such a way that they are at peace in their own identity and person: they have self-confidence and self-acceptance such that they desire no praise from others, nor do they fear the negative opinion of others. For this very reason people who are gentle are able to see and sympathize with the plight of those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and who are persecuted or insulted for the sake of righteousness. Going beyond this, those who are gentle, having been graced by God with a balanced measure of inner peace, are aware that they need to reach deeper and give of themselves in order to alleviate those things that cause people to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and to be persecuted or insulted for the sake of righteousness, and thus to live as those who are peacemakers, merciful, and clean of heart. They are moved to do this because as Christians they (we all) have a duty to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, and it precisely this Kingdom that Jesus describes in the beatitudes. It turns all earthly kingdoms on their head because it shows the true order of reality, redeemed from the effects of sin and the perennial struggle for power and prestige. Our Lord promises the Kingdom of Heaven to the humble of the earth; as the possibilities of a new year stand before us, let it be our resolve to live humbly and gently, at peace in the knowledge that in doing so we imitate Christ himself, and that our "reward will be great in heaven” (Matt 5:12). Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time In the Gospel reading today we are told that large crowds came to Jesus to hear his extraordinary message. Surely they were also attracted by his ability to heal people and to drive out demons. Some perhaps wanted healing for themselves or for a loved one. Others may have come out of curiosity to see someone healed and to marvel at this extraordinary man who could do things that are impossible for ordinary people.

But, of course, with Jesus along with his healings you also get his teaching. And his teaching is as remarkable as his healing. After a while we come to realise that actually the teaching is far more important than the healing.

If you think about it, a healing directly affects only one person even if it has a very profound effect on them. It also has a significant impact on their family for the obvious reason of their natural sympathy for the one who is afflicted, but also perhaps because it may well restore a breadwinner to them.

But teaching is something else entirely; it can affect generation after generation and there is almost no end to the good it can do. Look at us, two thousand years after the event and here we are gathered around an altar discussing the implications of the teaching of Jesus given on a hillside two thousand years ago. We can only imagine the amount of hope and comfort that these teachings of Jesus have had on countless generations since they were first spoken.

I do not want to dismiss the powerful effect of the healings Jesus performed but only wish to emphasise the far greater effect on humanity of his teaching. And there is no segment of his teaching which has had greater effect than the first part of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, which is set before us today. First of all we should notice that it is in the form of poetry.

This is not a piece of straightforward prose; no, it is a poem. And there is no literary form that has had a greater impact on mankind than poetry because poetry speaks to the soul; poetry finds far more profound resonance in our hearts than any other kind of literature. The way these few verses are constructed are unmistakably written in a poetic way with their repeated emphasis at the beginning of each line on those who are happy and then giving us the reason for their particular joy.

The choice of each of these groups of people: the poor in spirit, the gentle, those who mourn and so on also has deep poetic resonances. It is important to understand that in Hebrew poetry it is not words which rhyme but ideas. If you look at these verses of the Beatitudes in this way you will see that the poor in spirit are equated with the gentle and we easily see how these are related. As we go on there is another parallelism between those who mourn and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

You might not think these two concepts are immediately related but in the Hebrew understanding mourning is often what the prophets do as they consider the situation of the people who are experiencing oppression of one kind or another. The prophets mourn because the people are subject to unfairness and exploitation. Here we see that the mourning refers not just to those who have lost a loved one but to the whole nation that has lost its innocence. The parallelisms continue with mercy being equated with purity of heart, something we can easily understand.

The same goes for the peacemakers and their equivalence with those who are persecuted. It is obvious to us that peacefulness within society is a pre-requisite before people can be released from unjust oppression by others. We can see immediately that the Beatitudes are not merely platitudes, and we begin to have an appreciation of the profound religious and literary depths that they tap into. I am no scholar of Hebrew but it is obvious to me that there is an awful lot more to the Beatitudes than just a series of trite phrases spoken to placate a crowd standing on a hillside in Palestine. It is a remarkable fact that millions of people, including ourselves, have come to appreciate the beauty of these sublime words which came from the lips of Jesus on that blessed day when he started to expound his teaching to the people gathered on the hillside in Galilee. More puzzling though is the last verse which is very startling compared to what has gone before. ‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.

Rejoice and be glad because your reward will be great in heaven.’ This moves the object of Jesus words away from nameless poor and mourning people directly on to us who wish to be called the disciples of Jesus. Suddenly his words move from the abstract to the particular; they swiftly become deeply personal. No longer are they directly outwardly at someone else but now directly concern ourselves. And the message is not good. Suddenly it is we who are in the frame, we immediately realise it is us who will be persecuted and abused and hated and defamed.

And we are told that these things will happen if we choose to follow the Lord. It is as if Jesus is placing this warning right at the beginning of this extended discourse so that we can make a choice as to whether we wish to engage with him or not. We know from the Acts of the Apostles and from the history books that what Jesus said has proved to be true. Not just in the early centuries of the Christian era which saw gruesome persecution by the Romans but actually right down to the present day. All the way down the centuries there have been constant attacks against Christians because of their faith. Christians might not be facing overt persecution in Britain today but there are a lot of examples of covert persecution. Just try speaking up for the faith in the workplace or in the media and you will discover just how virulent anti-Christian feeling is in this country.

There are lots of examples of people being reprimanded at work for wearing a crucifix or for offering to pray for others. And we can think of bizarre examples such as the bakers who were recently dragged through the courts for not putting gay propaganda as the icing on a cake. We need to be alert to these signs of anti-Christian prejudice and help to defend those who are disadvantaged as a result. We need to stand up for our faith in the public realm and not allow it to be denigrated by the media. The persecution is there but to be a disciple of Christ means standing up to it and actively resisting its insidious growth in this world of ours. The Beatitudes are beautiful poetry, they give meaning and purpose to the lives of countless people; but Jesus is reminding us that they do not reside in a meek and mild world of religious sentimentality. No, the Beatitudes are bold and robust and if we actively espouse them then we invite attack and persecution. So let us be a bit bolder about how we go about expressing our Christian faith, let us become more active, let us speak up for Christ. And if doing these things brings hardship upon us then so be it.
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