6th Sunday of Ordinary Time - February 17, 2019 (Deacon Steve)
The focus of today’s gospel is the Beatitudes. We are familiar with the eight beatitudes found in the gospel of Matthew but maybe less so with the more concise version found in Luke, the one we have read today.
Biblical scholar Dr. James Hastings in his book “Dictionary of the Bible” states that each beatitude has two phrases:
first the condition and then the result. Some of the phrases are from the Old Testament, but in the Beatitudes Jesus renews the phrases and places them as a focal point of his teachings. Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of ideals - ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and blind obedience.
The Beatitudes echo the highest ideals of Jesus' teachings on spirituality and compassion. So what are the implications for us, today?
Let us ponder the first one St. Luke lists:
Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
Before retiring from full time teaching, I had spent many years in the classroom. As a Catholic school elementary teacher I have a large collection of gifts that were given to me by my students at Christmas time. I’ve never expected nor asked for gifts. In fact I have often told the students and their families that I wished they wouldn’t; but, the gifts kept coming.
I was often worried about students who came from families with economic struggles so I would stress that my favorite gifts were homemade ones.
One year I had a student whose family was going through some very difficult times. As Christmas drew near he came to me with eyes full of tears sadly saying he had no gift for me. I said he didn’t have to give a gift and that just being my student was a great gift to me. But that didn’t seem to help.
When the day before Christmas vacation arrived he entered the room with a large box wrapped in home made Christmas paper. With a big smile he handed me the box and exclaimed “Merry Christmas” in a loud, clear voice.
I started to open the gift and he was almost overcome with excitement. Inside the box were dozens of homemade, paper Christmas tree ornaments. Some were wrinkled, some were torn, and it was difficult to even tell what some were suppose to be. But I was overjoyed to have them and every year they have decorated our family’s Christmas tree. After so many years most have disintegrated, but a few remain and each year I feel blessed to have them. That young boy, with with very limited resources, has blessed me through the years. We can bless those around us just as that young student has blessed me. A kind word, a smile, a greeting, a tone of welcome, all spread God’s blessings. So much can be done by the simplest acts.
The next Beatitude according to Luke is:
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
A few months ago I read an article by a Maryknoll priest who had spent some time in Haiti after the earthquake. He tells of a small boy who greeted him in the street. The boy looked emaciated. The boy asked father to pray for his family.
Father said he would pray and then took out a candy bar from his back pack and gave it to the boy. His face lit up with a huge grin and he literally jumped for joy.
The boy expressed his gratitude and then quickly ran to a group of friends, broke the candy bar into pieces, and shared what he had with his friends. Father was honored to have had the opportunity to observe such virtue. That little boy was hungry but he shared more than his candy bar. He shared God’s blessings with Father.
Most of us will never have the chance to go to Haiti but we still have a chance to honor this beatitude. We still have an opportunity to share in this same blessing.
There are multiple opportunities in our city to feed the hungry. Our parish’s red bag project is one of them. It does my heart good when I go to the collection areas in our churches and see them overflowing. Thank you for your generosity.
And then Luke tells us:
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.
Most of us have been to a wake service for a relative or dear friend. The loss we feel at that time can be overwhelming. Grief staggers us and tears flood our lives.
But then at the wake the opportunity to share occurs and people start recalling fond memories and humorous incidences from the loved one’s life, and we start smiling through our pain and laughing through our tears and we are blessed. We become the blessed sorrowing.
And lastly we have:
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name.
When we are rejected; when we are insulted; when we are made to look foolish; when we are the butt of cruel jokes, it is easy to become filled with rage.
But there is another response. This other response doesn’t tear at our self worth as retaliation and revenge does.
This response is uplifting and not degrading. It is life giving and not life taking. This response can at first seem difficult to do, but the world becomes a better place when we follow it. This response comes from today's gospel:
Rejoice and leap for joy! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
Deacon Steve MacDonald
Luke’s Beatitudes, page 10
The Beatitudes echo the highest ideals of Jesus' teachings. The beatitudes spread blessings. Let us be people who spread blessings by our actions, by our words and