BLESSED ARE THEY/HAPPY ARE THEY
Fr. Alex’s Corner, January 29, 2017
A seriously ill man summoned his pastor for a chat and the Last Rites. “I haven’t been faithful to church or nice to others, but my end is near and I’m worried. If I leave a million dollars to the church and $100,000. to you, Father, will I be with the Lord after I die?” The pastor thought for a second, and replied, “Well, it’s an interesting plan. What have you got to lose?”
No, no, no! That didn’t happen to me. But it’s an interesting story. Everyone wants to be “with the Lord” after they die. What about now? Jesus didn’t want to wait, so He leapt down from heaven and brought heaven here.
In the next few Sunday Gospels Jesus teaches the Beatitudes. Scripture scholars believe that St. Matthew combines the various teachings of Jesus into the “Sermon on the Mount.” Just as God gave Moses “The Law” on Mt. Sinai, Jesus, the Word of God, gives His Law “up the mountain” (Matt, Ch. 5).
The Old Law, given to Moses, was a list of “do not’s,” with God’s promise to always watch over His people. Jesus takes it a step further. Now God is with us: “I will be with you always” (Matt 28:20), and so Jesus’ Law is different. He teaches His followers what to “do” while we live “with the Lord.”Jesus establishes the Kingdom of Heaven here and now, proposing a pattern for our earthly lives and daily challenges. His plan is not easy. It is often misunderstood and rejected. Jesus is transforming our culture, our values, and our relationship with other human beings. The Sermon on the Mount could be Jesus’ Inaugural Address. When He says we are “Blessed,” He means that God is with us. And where God is, that is Heaven!
The word “Blessed,” in the Greek language used in the Scriptures is makarios, which means
happy or joyous. It’s not a giddy joy, but an inner feeling of peace and security. It suggests consolation that whatever happens, God is with us. And so, if you want the fuller meaning of Jesus’ teaching, read the Beatitudes and substitute “God is with” wherever the text says “Blessed.” It’s different! Very different!
Some years ago I knew a lady named Sandy. She was a Rosarian, prayerful, always helping in the parish, and doing good works for others. Unfortunately, her family life was a mess. Her husband was showing signs of dementia. Her son was an alcoholic, and her daughter, the apple of her eye, got into trouble and ended up a convicted felon. One day, while visiting a sick parishioner I met Sandy bringing a thermos of hot soup for her ailing friend. She was making this soup and remembered that it was her friend’s favorite, so she drove in the cold and the snow to bring it to her friend. Later, when I asked why she kept doing all these good things, she answered quite humbly, ”God has always been so good to me.” I responded, “No, He hasn’t! Your family story would give the biblical Job a Biblical Blush!” She continued, “But Father, whenever I had my problems, God was with me. And He kept me strong.”
WOW! Blessed was Sandy! In spite of her personal troubles, she felt the presence - and the strength - of God. You see, that’s the Kingdom of Heaven – right here on earth. Where God is, that’s Heaven. In spite of pains and problems, God was there, consoling, helping, and loving. Yes, Sandy was Blessed.
We will continue our reflections in the next weeks. Till the next time, Blessed be YOU!
(Building maintenance and repairs kept us from our rooms and our electronics for a few days, so if there was a disturbance in our posting, Sorry About that. We are back….)
God’s very own SHOW AND TELL
Fr. Alex’s Blog, January 15, 2017
The Church and our Liturgy are moving forth from Christmas. But the feast and the mystery of the Epiphany require some reflection.
God lit the Eastern night skies with His own brand of fireworks to announce the birth of His Son in Bethlehem. The Star made some wise people look up and take notice. Based on their science, traditions, and a whisper from the Holy Spirit, they concluded that something new, SOMEONE new, was coming into the world, and they wanted to see for themselves. They gathered some valuable gifts hoping to present them to this special SOMEONE, and perhaps carry some favors to bring peace into the world.
The word Epiphany comes from the Greek and signifies a showing, a manifestation, an uncovering if you wish. It’s like a curtain rising so the audience can see the scene on stage.
Many of our languages have adopted and adapted the word Epiphany so that we can recognize it in the languages of our ethnic faith traditions. Many of our languages….
But one language uses a very different word. The Polish word is “Objawienie Panskie.” Some years ago I noticed this in a Polish Missalette. I figured that the word “Panskie” referred to “the Lord.” But objawienie? I never heard the word before and didn’t have a clue as to its meaning.
So I asked one of our Polish lectors: what does it mean; what is its significance? He was a smart man, spoke English and Polish fluently, and other languages, too. He assured me that the word Objawienie was both the Polish name for the feast as well as the mystery of the Epiphany of the Lord. But he continued: whereas the common translation of Epiphany in English describes a showing, or an uncovering, which is something static, the word objawienie
suggests a continuous unwrapping. It connotes unwrapping layer after layer, each layer showing something new under it. He used the example of an onion. Every layer you peel, there is another layer under it. This deepens our understanding of the mystery we celebrate in the Epiphany. There is more to this event than traveling Magi and three mysterious gifts.
No matter how many times we hear the story of the coming of the Christ into our world, there is always something new to learn, something rich to experience.
The Eastern Church emphasizes this continuous manifestation. At Epiphany they recall the Baptism of the Lord by consecrating baptismal water (like we do at the Holy Saturday Vigil). And at Evening Prayer in our Roman Breviary we read: “today the Star leads the Magi to the Infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan….”
What a grace-filled idea to take with us into the new year, as we listen Sunday after Sunday to the continuous unwrapping of God’s plan for our salvation. Let us watch, with the eyes of faith, Jesus Christ preaching, teaching, healing, feeding, forgiving, serving, dying and rising to bring us to union with His Father. He truly is the Gift that keeps on giving.
In Jesus, there is always something new. Even if we have heard the story before, we are probably different today than we were the last time we heard it. That’s the miracle of the Gospel. It’s an old story that is always new.
So think about that, my friend. Each time you hear the story proclaimed, ask yourself: what does that mean to me today? You will get an answer. When Jesus said, “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20), He meant just that!
A New Year:
Living in the Presence of God
Fr. Alex’s Blog, January 8, 2017
Our Church Liturgy is focused on Christmas for two more weeks. New Year, Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord introduce us to this Baby from Bethlehem and to our life with Him. Take time to stop, look, and listen.
Our holiday trappings may be already stored for next year. We work ourselves to a frenzy and become tired and stressed. There are the cards, gifts, decorations, family gatherings, each with its own joys and sorrows. These are all good things, but exhausting and expensive. No wonder some people can’t wait till it’s over.
Some years ago I was buying church decorations on Christmas eve. “This will be your busy day,” I said to the checkout lady. She said that she had worked every day since Thanksgiving, “and lots of overtime. I’ve made a lot of money. Tonight we close at six. I will go home, take a nice bath, put on my robe and slippers, pour myself a good stiff drink, light up a cigarette, and relax. Thank goodness, Christmas is over!” I responded, “We have to talk about that someday.” She said, “Sure, hon” and added “Merry Christmas,” because she knew that’s what I wanted to hear.
Thank goodness, Christmas is over?!? No, no!
On January 1 we honored Mary, the Mother of God. Our Liturgy hinted at what our Blessed Mother’s first “Christmas” was like. And what followed…. The Gospels record two things she said before her “Christmas.” She asked the Angel “how is this supposed to happen,” and then,“I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me as you say” (Luke, Chapter 1).
It is good for us to watch what followed….
This was not a mushy movie. It was a life being lived. Mary may have wondered about the trip
to Bethlehem, then being stuck in a barn when her baby came. Joseph, her faithful husband was there, and he also had questions. And all those animals! They had to shoo them away from the baby. That cow wanted his hay, and the baby may have looked good too. Then came the shepherds, strangers, with more stinky animals, and messages from Angels.
Mary wondered what might happen next. She didn’t know the Apostles’ Creed, or the Hail Mary for that matter. She took life as it came.
There are three recorded statements from Mary after the birth of Jesus. First: “Son, why have done this to us. Your father and I have sought you with anxiety” (Luke Chapter 2). This, when 12-year old Jesus stayed in Jerusalem and they spent days looking for Him. His response that he must be about His “Father’s business,” was a surprise. Who is this kid? And what’s next?
At the wedding at Cana, like any good mother, Mary senses trouble. A young couple needs help. Jesus, we have a problem….
And finally, to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you” (John, Chapter 2).
Those three statements capture Mary’s spirit, how she responded to God’s call, and how she lived in the presence of God. Her pattern of life in the presence of God is what we are invited to emulate. So, no, Christmas is NOT over…
Can we incorporate those sentiments into our New Year’s resolutions?
Living with God is a mystery. But He is always with us. We have to be sensitive to the needs of others. Jesus made that quite clear! And then, of course, “Do whatever He tells you.”
Think about it.
May God bless you in the New Year 2017, and I hope we keep meeting at this site each week. God bless….