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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 29, 2017

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            Did you know that in order to brush your teeth with full effectiveness, you should brush for two full minutes using at least 4 different motions of the toothbrush?  Of course you did!  Here’s another health tip:  in order to wash your hands thoroughly, was them with plenty of antibacterial soap and warm water for as long as it takes to pray a Hail Mary (sing a full verse of “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”).  Both health tips are true, but most people say something like, “well yeah, but, who does that?”  In other words, it’s a nice idea and sure it would be good for everybody to do, but it’s so impractical that it’s out of the question for people who live a normal life in the real world.

            I wonder if we don’t have the same reaction to the Beatitudes we hear in today’s Gospel.  “Well yeah, but who does that?”  We might even think, “Yeah Saints do that, but not real people.”  If you heard closely the beginning of this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was talking to the crowds, everyday people like you and me!  Jesus challenges us as he did his early disciples with the awareness that Christianity is clearly a contradiction to societal norms.  In other words, if we want to follow him, we have to do what he does, live like him, and love like him.

            So, concretely, have we forgiven those who have hurt us?  Do we say, “I forgive you, don’t worry about it, and let’s move on?”  Is that no more than showing mercy?  Have we realized that we were helpless in certain situations and had only God to rely on?  That is living poor in spirit.  Have we been in situations where the wrong thing looked extremely more attractive and easy, but the right thing looked extremely unattractive and difficult, but then asked God to help us do the right thing because we really wanted to but weren’t sure we could?  That is hungering and thirsting for holiness or righteousness.  I shared the story of Jeremy Wilson, father of William Wilson who was killed by a drunk driver in Columbia in his mid-20s, who when we were talking about William’s funeral and readings, Jeremy and Maura chose these Beatitudes.  I will never remember the lesson Jeremy taught me that evening when I said, “Y’all may not feel blessed in your grief and mourning, but I pray that Jesus in His time will heal your hearts.”  Jeremy said to me, “No Father Tim.  We are very blessed in our grief, because it is a sign of how much we love William and he loves us.”    In our sorrowing and mourning, Jesus in His time will console and heal us.  Meek is another beatitude that doesn’t sound popular in today’s mindset.  Rather, are we not rewarded for being pushy, direct, impatient, and worst of all, act like we are entitled, rather than gentle, kind and peaceable?  Living clean of heart could be one of the most difficult challenges in our society where sex and the love of money are for many people their gods.  We are bombarded with images and commercials with sexy models often times selling ideas about how to get ahead in life.  If you are watching the Super Bowl next Sunday, pay attention to the advertisements and think about who is selling what.  Perhaps even think about what could have been done with the millions of dollars spent on the ads alone!  And don’t forget being peacemakers.  Do we not want to retaliate when people hurt us rather than work things out with them? Or perhaps, we encourage others to get even when they come to us to vent, rather than give them advice that facilitates seeking peace.  Have you ever thought about how gossip contributes to strife and chaos rather than peace and order? 

The last two beatitudes make the point once again that if we live what Jesus demands, it won’t be popular.  In fact, we will be persecuted and laughed at.  What pre-teen or teenager wants to risk that?  But we find in the first reading what will identify us as disciples of Christ when we take these Beatitudes seriously: “They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.”

            In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul, the ever wise and patient pastor, took care to remind them not to forget who they were and whose they were.  Foolish, weak, lowly and despised, their greatness lay in God’s choice of them and not in themselves.  Once believers recognize this fact, they become people through whom gifts and graces of God can be manifest to others, for others.  From personal experience, Paul learned that the beatitudes are actually a way of making room for God in one’s mind and heart and way of life. And Paul reminds us to live to give glory to God:  “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”   Paul knew firsthand how God transforms the burdens of the beatitudes into blessedness.  It is in that blessedness that we will find true life and real living!