Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
(Note: This homily really hit home, it aligns so closely with books I have been reading and processing over the last year. It is posted here with permission.)
The Catholic writer, Matthew Kelly, tells us that the best way to serve and to please God is to become what he calls, “the best version of ourselves.” Kelly’s idea is that by being that best version of ourselves we will come closer to living our lives in the manner that God, in whose image we were created, has intended.
So, in other words, if I strive to be the best husband, father, deacon and friend that I can be; only then, am I truly being the Ed who was made in the image and likeness of God. Anything I do contrary to that separates me from God and detracts from my likeness to Him.
Last weekend I took part in an event in the London Diocese called, The Men of Faith Conference. It was a great experience, and so moving to be part of a group of about 300 men who had gathered to discuss, and hopefully deepen their faith.
One of the speakers was Fr. Ben Ludtke from Detroit. Fr. Ben’s message touched on how hard it can be to stand up for the faith but how important it is to do just that. The line he used a few times throughout his presentation that I think was so spot on was, “it takes guts to be a Catholic.”
I agree with Fr. Ben, it takes guts to make the ‘right’ choice instead of the popular choice; to make the moral choice instead of the choice that feels easiest in the moment; when the world today, just like in the time of Jesus, gives a totally different message.
The world tells us…
- you could be happy if you look out for number 1, and put your own needs first.
- you could be happy if you get ahead by taking advantage of other people as long as you don’t get caught.
- you could be happy if you talk trash or offer alternative facts to make someone else feel or appear to be inferior.
There are some of the Beatitudes that we already have the ability to achieve on our own; showing mercy, being a peacemaker, being humble. But there are also times when we will need to turn to God for help to achieve what is being asked of us...and it's not a bad thing to recognize that we cannot do it all by ourselves.
I want to share this little story with you…
One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little girl turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, there’s something about the Deacon’s message this morning that I don’t understand." The mother said, "Oh? What is it?" The little girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. He said God is so big that He could hold the world in His hand. Is that true?" The mother replied, "Yes, that's true."
"But Mommy, he also said that God comes to live inside of us when we believe in Jesus and when we receive Holy Communion. Is that true, too?" Again, the mother assured the little girl that what the Deacon had said was true.
With a puzzled look on her face the little girl then asked, "If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, won’t He show through?"
The little girl, in her own way, had unwittingly summarized what it means to live a life in keeping, with not only Gospel values, but more specifically, the story we hear in today’s Gospel. The closer we get to Jesus by following His message, by learning more about Him, by receiving Him in the Eucharist…the more He will show through us.
Jesus, in this very well known text that we call the Beatitudes, delivers a guide for us to follow that shows us, not only what we need to do but what He will do for us when we align ourselves closer to Him.
In fact, it is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the Beatitudes are explained as the “vocation of the faithful”, they show us the “actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life” and in fact, the Beatitudes really are like an instruction book for how to live - how to “be the best version of ourselves”.
They “describe for us the paths that lead to the Kingdom of heaven. Sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we tread them, step by step, by everyday acts. By the working of the Word of Christ, we slowly bear fruit in the Church to the glory of God.”
And the promises made to us in the Beatitudes, which are already secured through the Paschal Mystery, surely are cause for rejoicing.
It may be a difficult path to follow but we have faith that if we are “pure in heart” we receive the promised reward and we “shall see God”.
There are times when I take our children shopping. They want to spend the money they have been saving for a particular item. They have done their part, they have worked hard doing chores or extra things around the house but inevitably they will turn to me and ask, “Dad, if I don’t have all that I need will you help me?”
So it is with God. Of course, we need to do our part, but those times in our lives where we fall short, God makes up the difference, carrying us the rest of the way.
As Pope Francis said at World Youth Day in 2014:
"In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life. It is not an easy journey, yet the Lord promises us his grace and he never abandons us. We face so many challenges in life: poverty, distress, humiliation, the struggle for justice, persecutions, the difficulty of daily conversion, the effort to remain faithful to our call to holiness, and many others. But if we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, who is infinite love, can give."
Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Rev. Mr. Ed MacIntosh
St. Agnes Parish, Waterloo, ON