Monthly Archives: November 2015

First Sunday of Advent 2015 Homily

Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Cycle C – 2015
Jeremiah 33:14-16
1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

first Sunday Advent candleWaiting for something is not one of our culture’s strong traits. People in our current culture do not like to wait for much of anything. Microwaves speed up the process of cooking, but even that isn’t fast enough once in a while. Couples used to believe that it was better to wait until they were married to live together, but no longer. The realm of marketing Christmas as a time to buy gifts for the “holidays” has people so tired of Christmas by December 25 that they can’t wait to take down on Christmas evening the tree in their home that was put up in mid-November even though on the Church calendar, Christmas is celebrated December 25 through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord almost 3 weeks later. Our culture is hooked on quick gratification, now not later. An attitude that pervades our 21st century American culture seems to be waiting for something to come, living in anticipation, is a bad thing. “If its a good thing, something that will make me feel good, why should I have to wait?” say the people of our day.

The culture of not wanting to wait for something, so evident in the way secular society observes “the holidays” before the actual “holy days” of  Christmastime occur, makes what we try to live here in church more difficult to accomplish. We begin our period of waiting today. We remind ourselves we are a people who are in waiting. We are a people waiting for the “Advent of our King”, our savior Jesus who will come sometime in the future while we concentrate living in the present moment, not rushing things. The Christian is a person who lives with the tension between having to live in the present moment while waiting for the Lord to come back when he will make everything that destroys life in the here and now cease to exist. Christmas celebrates the first “coming of Jesus” in the past. In our present day the Catholic Church’s calendar gives us 4 weeks to prepare for, not celebrate, the feast of Christmas so that we can also appreciate that our present every day lives are to be a preparation for the second coming of Christ. In holding back, in waiting for something, we learn what it means to be disciples of Jesus. Disciples are people who work to make the reign of Jesus which will be established completely in the future a reality in the here and now. Advent is a time to discipline ourselves in the art of waiting! Waiting can be good. Waiting can increase our desire for the coming of the Lord and magnify our appreciation of his mercy when he arrives.

Perhaps our culture is so prone to celebrating a time like Christmas before the day arrives because they fear that the future may not arrive for them. Some people are fearful of the future, for sure. Our world is in such a mess! Climate change may make life harder for my grandchildren. Religious fundamentalists may blow my plane out of the sky on that trip I’m going to take to visit family at Christmas. Advertisements for financial advisors try to scare people into their offices “Will you have enough money to retire comfortably?” If a person pays attention to the news it sure does seem like the future is scary. The Gospel of this Mass even says there will be scary things in the future. But Jesus goes on to say, “Don’t worry about it! What people who follow me need to focus on is that I’m coming to make all things right, to correct what’s wrong with human life. It’s going to be great!”

Maybe it is a bit disturbing to ponder our coming death and the final judgement. People often ask their priest “Will I get into heaven? Am I good enough? I’ve done a lot of sinning, Father!” Let’s recall this day the message of the Gospel is one of a merciful God, a God who sent his son in the past to stand in for us on the cross so that all we humans do will not result in a future to fear, but to be hopeful about. It’s not what we do in the present that will get us to heaven, it’s what Jesus did for us in the past that secures a future worth waiting for.

So, while we’re waiting for the Good News of Jesus’ coming again to become the reality of the eternal present, Jesus encourages us to not let the “anxieties” of the present get to us and distract us. Present anxieties can be things like “How am I going to get my shopping done in time?” “I’ve got so much to do, cookies to bake, decorations to put up?” Frankly, those are good things, but they may be distracting us from the tasks that help us wait with the eager expectation the scripture is encouraging us to have. The question for us in Advent to ponder is what can I be doing to show others God loves them? What steps can I be taking, just for today, to show that Jesus is more important to me, that the Good News of Jesus is what society needs more than the news that there are only so many more days to shop before it’s too late. Maybe telling our family members how much we love them can prepare them to receive the love of Jesus when he comes. Reconciling with someone we’ve hurt will open hearts to receive the mercy of Christ at his coming. Feeding the poor, comforting the sick, visiting the lonely will give the Kingdom of God we await a foothold in the present world so that more people will want Jesus to come, again.

A current commercial that has been running in the media since November 1st encourages people to “Win the Holidays!” The Scriptures today remind us that we’re not in a contest to earn love through spending money for presents that can break or will eventually be thrown away filling up garbage dumps. We already have received the gift of the Love of God in Jesus Christ. Let’s spend some time preparing, waiting for the Love of God to come, again, with a love for the world that will bring justice and peace the world so needs even now. The opening prayer of today’s Mass gives us the clue to how to live as disciples who are people called to live in a time of waiting,

Almighty God, grant your faithful the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. 

 

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Funeral Homily for a Physician

On Friday, our parish family celebrated the funeral of a beloved Physician who had practiced medicine and lived in Trenton for many years. Many of his former patients and colleagues were not able to attend the funeral Mass that might have liked to, so I am posting the funeral homily on my blog. The obituary for Dr. Maximino Floreza, M.D. can be found at the Moss Funeral Home web-site.

Funeral Homily for Dr. Maximino Floreza
Dr. Maximino Floreza, M.D.

Dr. Maximino Floreza, M.D.

November 27, 2015
St. Mary Catholic Church, Trenton IL

The homily is based on the following readings
Wisdom 3:1-9
I Corinthians 15:51-57
John 6:51-59

There are a few vocations in life that pretty much take over your life. While many people are able to leave their work at the office or back at the shop and go home for some time off, there are a few professions that become your identity, something that you wear 24/7. Mom or dad, husband or wife is one of those vocations that become your identity. Priest is another. Doctor Max, as many called him in Trenton, had one of the vocations that becomes you and you become it so that you can’t stop being doctor just because you’re not in the office. Even when you’re the patient a doctor’s heart is beating inside you.

Let me explain with a short personal story. I visited Doctor Floreza at Barnes hospital a couple of Mondays, ago. While I went to bring the comfort of the sacraments to him, somehow the subject of  the conversation turned to my personal health. Doctor Floreza began to inquire what medicines I was taking for my high blood pressure, who was my doctor and was he suggesting anything I could do about my essential tremors. It was just natural, it was his nature for Maximino to be a doctor wanting to help the person in front of him with his medical talents. I could not help but think that the heart of a compassionate doctor like Dr. Floreza is very close to sharing the heartbeat of the divine physician, Jesus Christ. Doctors carry on the healing ministry of Jesus in our own time we believe as a family of faith.

Why do we call Jesus the divine physician? Yes, Jesus healed many people of their illnesses in the Gospels. The blind regained sight, the lepers were healed, the lame walked on legs that regained their strength. But every physician is deeply aware of one disease they can not treat with a pill. There is one human sickness that will not bow down before the wonders of medicine. Death is the enemy of doctors. There may be times when death is chased away for a while, but in the end, death seems to triumph. Even doctors themselves will be overpowered by death. Saint Paul refers to the truth of death having power over humans when he says that we wear a garment of corruptibility. Like the white coat some physicians wear all humans wear corruptibility. We need a different kind of medicine to heal the sickness of death that infects every person that breathes in this world.

Maximino once wore another white garment, not a lab coat, but a baptismal gown. When he was baptized in the Philippines almost 90 years ago, he was probably dressed in a white garment, a reminder that by becoming a member of Christ he would be clothed with immortality. When baptized, the little Maximino was united to Jesus and put on the coat of eternity. The baptismal garment was the promise of victory over death, yet, throughout life, like for any chronic illness another medicine would have to be taken regularly.

Today, we’re gathered here to share what could be called the medicine for the cure of death, the Eucharistic food. The body and blood of Jesus, which Maximino received often, is for all the faithful literally taking into ourselves the life of Jesus, a life that was not defeated by death. We have heard proclaimed in the Gospel, “Whoever eats by Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. The one who feeds on me will have eternal life.”

Let’s remember. Just as bread or any healthy food enters our bodies and is changed, literally becoming part of us by being changed into an energy that builds muscle and enables the heart to beat that enables us to live for another day, the spiritual food of the Eucharist becomes part of us, too. We are enlivened by Christ the one who lives. We are united to his body, his life blood flowing through us when we drink from the chalice. No wonder St. Paul could write, “O death, where is your sting?” Paul’s saying that having received the medicine of Christ’s body and blood we don’t worry about dying. The medicine that is the fruit of the Eucharistic remembrance of Jesus destroys death. Maximino believed this. We can hope he now lives with Christ.

Dr. Floreza’s life was a testament to the truth that dying to self results in life being enriched, made better. Many citizens of Trenton, and patients of his in other places will tell the story of how Dr. Max gave them their life back. Many hours were spent away from family, I’m sure, so that others could regain their healthy life. This good doctor took seriously his vocation, given him by Christ, and often shared it without cost, simply asking those who might have trouble paying him to just share something from their garden.

Maximino also discovered that death leads to life in his sacrificial love for you, his wife, Belen and you, his children Eileen, Mabel, Noreen, Melvin, and Carol. The long hours of practicing medicine were a sacrifice of love so you could have a rich life. The precious time he spent with you helping you, playing with you, teaching you through his example about how to live a good life are a sign to you to remember this day, that dying to our selfish nature can lead to life. Because your father practiced what he believed we believe that Jesus will raise him up to fullness of life.

We might say his last illness chastised Maximino a little. I’m sure he knew what his prospects were better than most patients. But as the first reading said, God found Maximino worthy of himself, as gold strengthened in fire. Let us pray that God’s mercy will take this beautiful life, lived in service and honor it by raising him to heaven purified of the sins he may have committed.

Doctor Max’s family told me how much he and Belen loved traveling the world. In their home is a map of  the world with pins stuck in it of all the fascinating places they have cruised and journeyed to. Now, in our grief let’s remember Maximino has embarked on the journey of an eternal lifetime with Christ at the helm. He goes to a place we only begin to see in this world through beauty of nature and the love of family and compassion shown the sick, but can only arrive at through death, the eternal shores of heaven. Surely, by God’s mercy, there on the shore of eternity he waits for us with Jesus and his beloved favorite Saint Ildefonsus to welcome us to the shores of heaven, one day, too.


Thanksgiving Eve Thought

Watching a crew of plumbers and large equipment operators replace a sewer line from our office building to the city line, today, I realized I’m grateful that there are people who are skilled at such manual labor. Also, watching these men in the trench I was reminded I’m definitely not cut out for such jobs and thankful for my own vocation. Each person has his and her role to play in society for the common good of all. On this Thanksgiving eve I give thanks for all who are able to share their skill and hope many more who are unemployed, homeless and hungry will have their human dignity respected by those who can help them. Blessed Thanksgiving, everyone!

 


Trust-full Thanks, Thanks-Full Trust and Around We Go

On Sunday, November 22 I was the “preacher” for the Trenton Council of Churches’ ecumenical Thanksgiving service. This is the homily I gave. (I confess, like many preachers, I recycled material. The homily was originally given on the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary time, Cycle B, but it seemed to fit for a Thanksgiving service too.) Since Protestants like to give their sermons titles, I was asked to come up with one and chose the title of this blog entry. The homily was given at St. John United Church of Christ in Trenton, IL.

Scripture references for the homily are
1 KGS 17:10-16, MK 12:38-44

Trust-full Thanks, Thanks-Full Trust and Around We Go

thanksgiving bulletinWe’ve all probably are familiar with a form of something called a trust exercise. There’s a activity often used in building up a sense of teamwork in the corporate world called a trust experience. A trust exercise goes like this…six people line up in two rows of three with arms extended and interlocked. Then another person is asked to fall backwards into their arms, trusting that their co-workers will catch them and not let them drop on floor. The whole experience is meant to build up trust between the co-workers.

There is an example of a negative trust exercise, too. Remember in the comic strip Peanuts. There’s a recurring story line between Lucy and Charlie Brown. Each fall, Charlie Brown is always fooled into trying to kick a football which Lucy yanks away at the last second leaving good ole’ Charlie Brown flying in the air and landing on his back…you can depend on Lucy to yank the ball away.

The scripture of the widow of Zarephath and the prophet Elijah in today’s reading and the story of the widow offering two small coins in the Gospel are examples of taking the trust challenge with God. The question is laid out for those who listen to these stories about widows is this, “Can we trust God to provide?” “Will Christ catch us if we put our trust in Him?”

You know, we human beings are wired to not trust people. Other people are viewed with suspicion so we don’t trust them. Are they out to take my stuff? People tend to doubt others can be depended upon. Such mistrust spills over into people’s relationship with Jesus, too.

There was a phrase made popular by Ronald Reagan during the cold war…
“trust but verify” — That’s not really trust! That’s suspicion that the other party to the agreement is going to cheat. It’s common sense say the politicians, trust but get proof first.

That’s what we’re wired to do as humans. We’re conditioned to believe we’ve got to make it on our own, and everyone else is out to take everything we have. Such mistrust of other people can make for a very isolated existence. There’s a bit of this lack of recognizing our interdependence in our American ethos. The myth citizens of this land tell themselves is that the successful folks are the ones who took responsibility for themselves and make their own way in life. These are the folks we praise in our national story. The individual who trusts himself above all others. Such a lonely existence when we do not trust.

But for us who claim to live in the Kingdom of God even now in this realm of Caesar is to break out of that isolation. Citizens of the Kingdom brought into this world by Christ reject that self-imposed prison of selfishness which imprisons others in a life of poverty.

Giovanni_Lanfranco_(Italian_-_Elijah_Receiving_Bread_from_the_Widow_of_Zarephath_-_Google_Art_Project

Giovanni Lanfranco (Italian – Elijah Receiving Bread from the Widow of Zarephath by Giovanni Lanfranco, Italian, 1621-1624, oil on canvas (accessed at Wiki Commons)

The widow in the old testament is trapped in her world view that she can only rely on what she sees in her kitchen pantry. Her future and therefore her son’s future, too, is bleak. Widow Zarephath and her son probably will become beggars on the street left to die on the street.  There was no social security, there was no Green Bean Pantry offering a safety net. Elijah challenges her to trust that God will not let that happen. Just go and make some bread. He opens up a little crack in her world view that says she must go it on her own.

As a result, God provides abundance. The message – God is the source of our livelihood, not just our own efforts. God does not want people to starve but will give them life – Trust God! We have a God who wants us to trust Him and he returns our trust. He WILL provide. Sure, we have to do our part, we must use our talents, but even when things look bleakest the Trustworthy One show us mercy and sustains us in life, even in death.

João_Zeferino_da_Costa_-_O_óbolo_da_viúva,_1876

The Widow’s Mite by João Zeferino da Costa, 1876, Oil on Canvas Retrieved from Wiki Commons

The message of the Gospel of the widow who offers to the poor two coins seems to suggest that the widow who gives “all she had” has the same trust in God……But there’s no indication the God filled up her kitchen cabinet. The story is silent on what happens after she puts her coins clinking in the coffer. She goes off into a future that Jesus doesn’t describe.

What’s the message? It could be that Jesus is still saying TRUST God, but remember you people who are familiar with the scriptures, God expects you to let go of your “stuff,” all you have, too, so that people like the widow don’t have to worry about their future. Use all you have, a little flour in a jar, a couple of coins, risking not having enough for yourself so that others don’t have to worry about where their next meal comes from. Jesus doesn’t let his disciples off the hook. By saying “she gave all she had” He’s saying to the disciples (us) don’t just give away a few coins you can spare, but challenge yourself to give what you don’t think you can to make sure the poor can eat, have a place to live free from violent wars or get health care. Use ALL your gifts from God to build a more equitable world so that no one need fear for their future.

In the words of Pope Francis in his visit to the U.S. in his address to congress, leaders (and by extension all citizens of this land since the “represent” us) are to help all of a society blessed by God with bounty to work for the “common good” of all citizens. If you listened closely to what the Holy Father was saying, he may even be suggesting citizens of this land should not just consider but get busy redistributing our treasure. We have an obligation to ensure all citizens, even non-citizen residents have what they need to live according to their God-given human dignity dictates. Here’s a biblical truth, an indication we live as citizens of the Kingdom of God: As we proclaim our thankfulness for what we have we will grow in our willingness to trust God will provide what we and others need to live grateful to the one who is the source of all blessings.

Can society’s poor count on us? We’re invited, no, commanded as disciples of Jesus to be the arms interlaced behind those who are in need that they can trust to catch them when they fall through the cracks of life that open up leaving them in need. So blessed by Jesus, the church must be the interlaced arms catching the hungry. The church must advocate for the Syrian refugee longing to be free from fear of violence. A nation that pauses to give thanks and acknowledge our blessings as we say “In God we trust” must, in obedience to that God, must look out for the sick, the homeless, the immigrant, the jobless. For sure we should reject the urge to offer a way out of trouble only to yank the ball out from those who don’t have what they need to live lives free from fear, free from hunger. We are to be the agents of Good News of God’s faithful love, not folks who take delight in being blessed but who refuse to play by God’s rules. As disciples of Jesus we must not be like the fictional character who can only be trusted to yank the ball of hope for a better life away from those in need. Such lack of obedience to God’s rule denies an opportunity to those who in need to know they can trust God because we were the messenger of that mercy.

There was a Little banner stitched by a nun that hung under a crucifix in my bedroom from the time I was in Grade School to the day we sold my parents house…”let go, let God!” Let go of fear for our future, God is already there and will provide us life, a life that can not end, a life that is abundant. Let go of our stuff. Let God use it to provide a better life to others. Let go of our hearts so that God’s love will grow in them leading us to trust God ever more deeply.

Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, Let our thanksgiving remind us we can trust God to provide for ourselves and others. Let our hearts full of trust in God’s promises lead us to give thanks for his faithfulness that will never disappoint us.

(c) 2015 Rev. Joseph C. Rascher


Future of Fear or Hope

Sometimes, after the Sunday Eucharist, greeting members of the assembly as they leave the church building, one or two will complement me on the homily. Even more rare is a request for a copy of the homily. It’s flattering when that happens, but it can also make me wonder if my other homilies on other weeks didn’t touch the heart or stir the thoughts of those who listened and I failed to proclaim the Word of God in a way that can be heard by the contemporary parishioner so that they will go out into the world experiencing a conversion of heart, the goal of all preaching. This weekend was one of those where there were comments and a request. For some reason the following stored the hearts of a few folks. Thanks be to God for letting me be the messenger who spoke his word that changes hearts and proclaims Good News!

"Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.

Homily for the Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Readings for the Thirty-third Sunday of the Year, Cycle B
Daniel 12:1-3
 and Mark 13:24-32

People have a conflicted relationship with the future. Some people say they don’t want to know what’s going to happen in the future because such knowledge might immobilize them in the present. If they knew when, where and how they were going to die, they might shut down and never leave the house. Such folks relationship with the future are based on fear. Other people are almost fascinated with the future and say they want to know what’s going to happen so some sort of prophetic prediction will enable them to be prepared. But usually such predictions are full of fear or produce anxiety. Think of people who try to interpret the “symbolic” language of a 16th century writer named Nostradamus. His writings are often read for clues to foretell the future, a future that is full of tribulation. T.V. preachers tell of a terrible time to come as they claim to be able to see the future foretold in book of Revelation. Such supposedly enlightened so-called religious characters usually predict a future to full of fear. Pay them no attention! They’re totally misusing the Word of God! Their method is a total mis-reading of the last book of the bible – it tells of current events at the time it was written in such a way as to strengthen Christians under persecution. Revelation is like a pep-talk to Christians fearful of current events to stay strong during persecution. Jesus wins! Romans, those who claim earthly power lose! That’s how it should be read today, not as a fortune teller’s script.

Even the Gospel and first reading of this Sunday’s liturgy seem to talk about fear and anxiety as hallmarks of what’s to come. Wars, natural catastrophes will occur. A time of tribulation will be the sign of Jesus’ future return.

So, is this the time of tribulation? Terrorists blow up and shot innocent people out for a night of fun in Parish restaurants, theaters and outside a soccer stadium. The message seems to be fear for your future for you have offended us! Violence, fear become the method of choice to send a message about the future.

The Gospel is not meant to scare us, but to be Good News! That’s what “Gospel” means in Greek, “Good News!” Remember, every age has had its doomsayers predicting terrible times. Every era of human history has seen wars, has experienced natural disasters that cause human misery. The Good News is evil doesn’t win in the end. Jesus triumphs with love. The cross and resurrection are the sign of love’s victory destroying hatred and death. Good News! Sacrificing yourself like Jesus, in union with Jesus who are members of by our baptism, brings peace.

The evil things that happen to innocent people out for a carefree Friday night killed by terrorists are a sign…A sign that humanity needs the love of Jesus to come and bring his kingdom of harmony, NOW. The bad stuff that happens in any age is a sign that Jesus is the one we await and need to set right the mess we humans have made of our human family. Sin, human hubris, the expression of hate that happens in every age is a message to be taken to heart…Jesus can not doesn’t want this to continue. He is coming, be ready. He is already here, standing on the threshold of a new order of humanity already entering human history through his body the church. Change, or be ready to experienced the consequences.

How do we get ready for the appearance of Jesus, to meet him both not and in the future judgement? Make a choice…

either give into hate rooted in selfish pride, continue to increase the division of humanity into it’s tribes that try to conquer one another and suffer the consequences; be separated from God forever in unimaginable misery (Tradition calls such existence Hell)…

or…live life as Jesus revealed as the way to the fullness of living where dying to self for the sake of others well-being is the opening up of a life that cannot be defeated by death.

Those who follow Jesus have a Future full of HOPE, therefore they are not afraid even of the present troubling events.

If we live in the present seeking to reconcile people who are estranged, if we strive to bring justice (right-ordering of human relationships where no one is stronger or has power over another, or abuses the human dignity of others), living lives of compassion and service to the poor our joyful future with Jesus is pretty much assured. Because Jesus Christ is just. He will know you served Him in the poor, you didn’t deliberately try to destroy life that was no threat to your personhood respecting the human dignity of all, Christ will give the fullness of life. Jesus is merciful, overlooking our selfish poor choices and wiping them out of existence so they do not hinder our ability to pass through the threshold of eternity.

Those who are in Christ fulfilling the mission of the Church the best they can, forgiven of sin don’t worry about the future. God is there already and has prepared a new life for us. In the Creed we say at Mass we profess, “I ‘look forward’ to the resurrection of the dead.” “Look forward” has the connotation of excited expectation in this context, a “I can’t wait, it’ll be wonderful” sense. Concentrate on living in the present as a person who shows compassion and mercy. Then the future won’t be something to fear.

 


All Saints and The Beatitudes

All-Saints

A couple of weeks ago I was able to go on my annual retreat (that all priests are required to do) at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana.  The retreat preacher, Fr. Eugene Hensell, O.S.B. , a monk of the Archabbey and faculty member of the St. Meinrad School of Theology, there, spoke over the course of 9 conferences about the “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus (Matthew Chapter 5, 6, 7). This exploration of the Sermon on the Mount inspired my homily for this year’s Solemnity of All Saints. What follows is my attempt to preach the feast. The congregation was lucky I didn’t try to explain to them all the notes I took during the retreat! That would have been a much longer homily. 😉

Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints 2o15

Readings for the feast

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12A

We all probably dream of our door bells ringing and there is some guy from Publisher’s Clearing House standing on the other side of the door with a big check for $10,000 dollars per week for life. “Congratulations!” the prize patrol guy says. “You’ve won the sweepstakes!” So there we are, the contest winner whose thinking our struggles in life are over. Thank God I signed up on the web-site for the contest! There will be no more financial worries for my family!

In the Gospel of the “beatitudes” Jesus is doing something similar. Jesus, in the beatitudes is announcing that his disciples have won the big prize. The Greek word used in this version of the Gospel written by Matthew is translated “Blessed” but it could be just as accurately translated “Congratulations!”

Congratulations, you’re poor!
Congratulations, you’re grieving and mourning!
You’re being persecuted for your beliefs. Hey, it’s your lucky day!

Using the word “Congratulations” sure makes the message Jesus is preaching to the disciples seem rather odd. What? Be excited because my life is in the pits? That’s not good news. How about you fix things so I don’t suffer so much?”

It is important to remember Matthew writes about Jesus teaching the “Beatitudes” to a community that’s discouraged. Things were not going as well as they thought they would or should be after proclaiming Jesus as the Savior to the people in their day. Shouldn’t things be different because of Jesus. By now he should have come back and kicked beat up on the Romans and established his kingdom in power. And this is the good news, Matthew, Mr. Gospel writer? Congratulations! You say we win the prize but like the state of Illinois lottery now a days, payment will come sometime down the road! They needed a reminder that they were on the right track.

The Beatitudes are meant to be a reminder that God’s reign, God’s control isn’t just something that arrives at an undetermined future date. The Kingdom of Heaven is already present in the lives of the followers of Jesus. Because the disciples of Jesus believe Jesus rose from the dead, God is already in charge of death. God is in control of people’s lives even in the present. The way the beatitudes are written suggests that disciples are fortunate to know that God is ultimately in charge, not just in the future, but here and now.

Congratulations to those who live in the house built by Jesus’ death and resurrection because you know that deprivation is not permanent. You know that suffering does not last forever. You know that the forces of evil do not win, God does! When people know what the outcome of the battle is going to be, then the present suffering or pain or deprivation is a little more easy to go through. In fact, the suffering, if done with the conviction that God is already in charge will lead a disciple to see life differently. I’m not in charge of my fate, but the one who loves me enough to die for me is in charge. I’m his child, NOW (I John 3:2). By God, I need someone more powerful than myself to bring justice, to set my life right when it goes wrong.

Matthew is instructing us disciples of Jesus that since the Kingdom of God is already here, here’s how you live in it. These are not impossible life guiding principles. See in these laws of the Kingdom the way for everyone to experience a richer, fuller life. The rules are different from the way things are in the Kingdom of “Caesar” (this present era’s world of governments, radical religious fundamentalists and man-made economies) but you’ll be happier, more fulfilled if you follow these not so impossible rules.

Realize you can not secure your own life, but are dependent on the generous spirit of others to share your joys and supply what you need. (Matthew 5:3)

Work to forgive. Work at reconciling with those who have hurt you because resentment can strangle the joy out of life. (Matthew 5:7,9)

Realize you can not change the past. Let the past go! Live in the moment gratefully enjoying each day of life and the love you’ve been given. (Matthew 5:4)

The rule of God is already in the world. Follow the law of the beatitude and you don’t have to wait till you die to experience some of the fullness, the richness of life. The beatitudes are an achievable way of life, because we know that Jesus is in charge, not the powers that be of this world.

All the Saints were sinners like us, trying to live the way of the Beatitudes. Sometimes they didn’t live according to the law of peacemaker, or always in purity of heart, But, because they recognized their need to live differently than the “norms of this world” they began to experience the life of heaven in this world. Therefore, they have become inspirations to us that we celebrate on this feast of All Saints. Living life like Jesus lays out in his teaching is possible for sinners that are citizens of heaven in training. May the witness of the saints inspire us to understand we are fortunate. We’ve won the prize of living unafraid of whatever happens for we know Jesus is in charge and will share with us the prize of the fullness of life, now and forever!

 


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