Homily for June 12th, 2017:
We call these sayings of Jesus the Beatitudes. They contradict just about everything our culture tells us. There is no way we can accept these teachings of Jesus, and at the same time accept all the values of the society in which we live. Does that mean we must opt out of society? Not at all. It does mean, however, that if we are serious about being Jesus’ disciples, we must live by standards that are different from those of many around us — even when they are good people. Nor can we choose among the Beatitudes, selecting the one that best suits us. The Beatitudes are not descriptions of nine different people. They are nine snapshots of one happy person: happy because he or she lives a life centered on God.
The Beatitudes challenge us. They summon us to put God first in our lives. To the extent that we try to do that, and keep on trying despite our many failures and discouragement, we discover that a life centered on God is a happy life. It is a fulfilled life, and one that brings true peace. Why? Because God is the only source there is of true happiness, of fulfillment, and genuine peace. To all those who respond to this challenge, Jesus says: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Only in heaven? No, the reward Jesus promises begins here on earth. Then beatitudes describe a life that is shot through with generosity: generosity to God, but to others as well. Generosity doesn’t make us poor. It makes us rich. Winston Churchill, not a notably religious man, said once: “We make a living by what we get; but we make a life by what we give.” Jesus Christ says it best: “Give and it shall be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment. For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.” (Lk 6:38)
Is living by the Beatitudes beyond human powers? It is. To live as Jesus tells us to live in these nine sayings we need a power greater than our own. That is why we come to the Eucharist: to be strengthened uplifted, shaken up, and set ablaze with joy unbounded by the love that will never let us go.