Posts Tagged ‘your reward will be great in heaven’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, November 1, 2018 — Solemnity of All Saints — The Children of God — The Beatitudes

November 1, 2018

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Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

Reading 1 RV 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 24:1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Reading 2 1 JN 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

AlleluiaMT 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:1-12A

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

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From Abbot Philip
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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The Gospel from Saint Matthew today gives us what we call the Beatitudes.  The sayings of Jesus reflect what it is to follow the Lord:  poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ.  This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God.  We must follow Jesus with all of our strength.  When we fail, we must get up and start again.  Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

https://christdesert.org/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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1 NOVEMBER, 2018
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ REV 7:2-49-141 JN 3:1-3MT 5:1-12 ]

The feast of All Saints certainly is one of the happiest feasts we celebrate in the Church’s liturgy.  For this feast celebrates not only the victory of our loved ones who have gone before us but our hope and final destiny as well.  To know that our loved ones are already there and have won the victory over sin should inspire us as well in our sojourn on this earth.  This joy is ours even as St John wrote, “what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.”

But is this feast ours as well?  Is it true to say that the feast of All Saints is a celebration of every one of us and not just the saints in heaven?  In a way it is true that this is our feast, but we have not yet arrived, although we all have what it takes to become a saint.  Hence, the second reading begins with an attitude of thanksgiving for having the honour to be able to call ourselves sons of God.  To become a Saint is simply to become completely what we already are – a child of God, loved by the Father.  This presupposes that we are transformed in the image of His Son, and so share in God’s own life and happiness.  So although we are God’s children, we do not enjoy the full sonship until we become like God.  How then can we arrive with the saints in heaven and share in the joys of the saints?

Firstly, saints are those who have lived out their identity as the children of God.  Indeed, by virtue of our baptism, we are all made children of God.  As St John says, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.  Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us. My dear people, we are already the children of God.”   The question is, do we believe that we are children of God?  The truth is that the early Christians did, and that is why St Paul addressed the early Christians as saints.  In the first reading the angels were instructed thus, “Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

Unfortunately, although we are truly children of God by baptism through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit,we often forget our identity.  Yes, by our baptism, we are saying that we want to be saints.  Many people are shy, or deny that they want to be saints.  They keep saying that they are not worthy to be saints.  Not worthy or capable is one thing, but not wanting to be saints is another matter altogether.

It is as good as refusing to acknowledge this reality with the rest of humanity in the world.  When we deny our identity as the children of God and therefore saints in principle, we would then not bother to live as such.  So it is important right from the start to always to remember who we are:  children of God and His saints.

Secondly, saints are those who have been purified in faith and love.  Of course, to assert that we are children of God is not the same as claiming that we have arrived.  Rather, we know who we are and seek and strive to be faithful to our calling and sonship in Christ.  Rightly so, St John says, “surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”  So whilst we are technically saints, we are still growing to become one.

Isn’t this is what baptism is all about?  Who is a saint?  Isn’t he one who has put on Christ?  Indeed, we read that the saints “were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.” Baptism is therefore called a Christening service because we put on Christ.  In the same vein, when we choose a baptismal name, we express our desire to imitate that particular saint in his or her virtues.  Hence, he or she is called our patron saint.  A patron is one who supports us.  So not only do we seek to imitate the saints’ virtues but that they will support us in our journey to saintliness and holiness through their examples and intercession.

Thirdly, saints are those who witness to Christ even under persecution and opposition.  As the book of Revelation says, “These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.”  Only those who have suffered with and for Christ, even unto death, can truly share in the resurrected life of Christ.  This is affirmed by Jesus in the gospel when He said, “Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”  Isn’t this what baptismal life requires?  After all, to be baptized is to share in the death and resurrection of Christ. Those who were dressed in white robes symbolize the purity of the Father and demonstrate that they have won a great victory.

What, then, is the secret to live out this kind of life?  It is none other than to live out the beatitudes proposed to us by Christ.  Living out the beatitudes is already to live a blessed life and therefore a foretaste of life to come.   These beatitudes were lived out by Jesus before they were taught to us.  It can be said that these beatitudes guided Jesus in His life on earth.

Yes, we must cultivate the virtue of poverty of spirit by being dependent on God totally and obedient to His commands.  Only in this way can we become selfless, merciful, compassionate, pure and forgiving.  We are called to live a life of holiness in contradiction to the values of the world.  Only a man who lives such a life of holiness, even in the face of opposition, can be said to be truly free.

However, it must be said that saints are those who have won the victory through the blood of the lamb.  They won the victory not by their own strength but by the grace given to them through the death of Jesus.  By contemplating on the death of Jesus on the cross, they too could survive crises by keeping their sights on the living God and uniting themselves with the sacrifice of Christ.  So let it be said, the call to sainthood is a privilege as much as our cooperation with His grace at work in us.  So we do not become saints by mere efforts alone but by allowing the grace of God to operate in our lives.

Finally, we can have confidence in God’s overwhelming love, as the vision presents us with much hope and confidence, since John said, “I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language.”  It is our hope that we will eventually arrive, albeit some of us might need further purification upon death in purgatory.  That is why we turn to the saints as our models to inspire us to live a holy life and also to persevere till the end.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Homily for the November 1st – Solemnity of All Saints

by Fr. Tommy Lane

It is quite amazing that we who have faith and believe we will live forever can sometimes allow ourselves to be influenced or contaminated by the unspiritual viewpoint of western culture. We could have heaven on earth, but sometimes we create hell on earth. In my last parish in Ireland I said a number of times in homilies that the programs on TV do not reflect who we are. Who are we? St. John answers that beautifully in our second reading:

we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

We are not usually portrayed as spiritual beings in this fashion on TV. There is always somebody in some trouble. The TV does not reflect our deepest reality described by St. John in our second reading.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. (1 John 3:1)

If we know who we are, we will know how to act. If we know who we are, we will know how to act.

The Solemnity of All Saints today reminds us of who we are and what a bright future can be ours. As we celebrate today all the saints, both those canonized and those who are unknown, we are joyful that they have reached the goal of life, heaven. They remind us to keep our sights fixed high, to remember who we are and the glorious possibility that God offers us.

The saints encourage us in our own struggles because like us they also endured struggles, they grew from strength to strength, they matured in the Lord as they grew in years. We also see this journey of growth in the great people of the Bible. We could think of Abraham whom Genesis tells us pretended his wife was his sister because he was afraid but Abraham grew to become our father in faith. Moses had a speech impediment and had murdered and protested against being called by God but he led his people to the Promised Land. In the Gospels Peter is impulsive and doesn’t want the Lord to suffer but in Acts he is totally transformed and considers it an honor to suffer for the Lord. Interestingly in Acts even Peter’s shadow is a source of healing, something which is not said of Jesus in the Gospels. Obviously Peter’s Formation Adviser was out of this world!

The journey of growth in the great people of the Bible is also seen in the canonized saints. The Curé of Ars struggled with learning while in seminary but so many pilgrims went to Ars to confess to him that by 1855 there was a daily service of two horse buses between Lyons and Ars, and two other buses met the Paris train at Villefranche. The railway station in Lyons even had a special ticket office for people going to Ars, so many were the pilgrims.

St. Thérèse wrote in her autobiography that after the death of her mother, “I, once so full of life, became timid and retiring, sensitive to an excessive degree. One look was enough to reduce me to tears.” (Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition pp34-35) She went on to become the Little Flower of Jesus whose relics even stopped the traffic on Fifth Avenue New York because so many people came to venerate her, and three million people venerated her relics during their visit to Ireland in 2001, the same number of people who attended Papal Masses in Ireland in 1979.

St. Augustine struggled with impurity in his youth. As a teenager he was influenced by the loose living of his companions. When he was studying in Carthage he decided to take a mistress. He was such a scoundrel that he even once said to his mother St. Monica that there would be no problems between them if she gave up her faith! He underwent a conversion in Milan and went on to become a priest at the age of 36 and a bishop at the age of 41, and was Bishop of Hippo in North Africa for 35 years. One example of the influence Augustine has on the Church is that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church there are more quotations from St. Augustine than from any other writer.

St. Ignatius of Loyola had a colorful past before his conversion. In 1515 Ignatius and his brother Pedro Lopez were arrested and prosecuted for nocturnal misdemeanors that were outrageous. Ignatius says up to his twenty-sixth year he was given to worldly vanities. He was proud, sensuous, and driven by violent and powerful impulses, he demanded adventure and glory. But after his conversion he noticed that day dreaming about the saints brought him joy but not worldly matters. And thus gradually he developed the rules for discernment of spirits and established the Society of Jesus. He established a college in Rome for young men entering the Society of Jesus and also set up colleges in Jerusalem, Cyprus and Constantinople. At his death in 1556 the Society of Jesus had 1000 members with 100 houses throughout the world. We see this same journey of growth in the lives of all the saints.

(In another homily I discuss the growth of St Francis from his colorful past.)

The saints remind us of who we really are, the reality described by John in our second reading:

we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

Not only the saints’ lives but also their writings are precious gifts of grace to us to remind us of who we are and the glory that God is offering to us. We could think of St. Thérèse’s Story of a Soul with this beautiful excerpt:

“Charity is the most excellent way that leads to God. I finally had rest…I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places, in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my love, my vocation, at last I have found it, my vocation is love!” (Chapter 9, Clarke 194)

We treasure the Confession of St. Augustine with its words,

“You have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

We treasure the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the writings of all the saints. Although the saints had much room for growth early in their lives by the end of their lives we see that they were living the beatitudes of our Gospel today (Matt 5:1-12). Therefore they give encouragement to us as we are aware of our need for further growth. The saints were happy because they were poor in spirit, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful and clean of heart. Among the saints we venerate in a special way the martyrs. As our first reading from Revelation states:

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:14)

They remind us to keep our sights fixed high, to remember who we are and the glorious possibility that God offers us. We know that they are praying for us.

We hope and pray that all those near and dear to us who have departed are already or will be numbered among the saints and so we pray for them especially during this month. I conclude with our second reading:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/years_abc/all_saints4.htm

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, September 13, 2017 — “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” — “Take off the old self and those practices and put on the new self”

September 12, 2017

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 439

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Reading 1 COL 3:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.
By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.
But now you must put them all away:
anger, fury, malice, slander,
and obscene language out of your mouths.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 10-11, 12-13AB

R. (9) The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.

Alleluia LK 6:23AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and leap for joy!
Your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Christ surrounded by His Apostles by Kamille Corry

Gospel LK 6:20-26

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets
in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Luke 6:20-26 From Living Space

Today we begin what is known as Luke’s ‘Sermon on the Plain’ which more or less parallels Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Luke’s is much shorter but both begin with the Beatitudes and end with the parable of the house builders. Some of what is found in Matthew’s Sermon is found elsewhere in Luke as Matthew’s ‘Sermon’ it consists of disparate sayings of Jesus gathered into one place. Luke also omits Matthew’s specifically Jewish material which would not have been relevant to his Gentile readers.

The Sermon can be summarised as follows:

An introduction of blessings and woes (20-26)
The love of one’s enemies (27-36)
The demands of loving one’s neighbour (37-42)
Good deeds as proof of one’s goodness (43-45)
A parable on listening to and acting on the words of Jesus (46-49).

Similar to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Luke begins the Sermon on the Plain with his version of the Beatitudes. But there are striking differences. Whereas Matthew has eight (some would say seven) Beatitudes, Luke has four “Blesseds” and four contrasting “Woes”. As is typical of his uncompromising style when it comes to following Jesus, the language of Luke is much more direct and hard-hitting and it may well be closer to what Jesus actually said.

Matthew’s Beatitudes propose a set of attitudes which reflect the spirit of the Kingdom, qualities to be found in the truly Christian and human life. Luke, on the other hand, speaks of material conditions in this life which will be overturned. Later in this gospel, this is illustrated graphically in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (16:25).

Luke also has Jesus speak in the second person: “Blessed are you” and “Woe to you” rather than in the third person as Matthew does (“Blessed are those who…”). Nor does he speak of the “poor in spirit” but of “you who are poor” and he certainly means the materially poor.

He goes on to say how blessed too are “you who are hungry; you who weep; you who are hated and who are rejected and marginalised and whose name is regarded as evil” because of their connection with Jesus. Undoubtedly Matthew’s Beatitudes can be read to consider just ‘spiritual’ poverty and a hunger for ‘righteousness’, which in fact are also a form of real poverty and real hunger but Luke is a gospel for the materially poor and distressed and we must be careful not to turn our focus away from them. That is why he has Jesus born in poverty and dying naked and destitute (even of his ‘friends’).

Jesus tells those who are poor and hungry and abused to rejoice when that happens and “dance for joy”. There are two reasons:

  1. because their reward will be “great in heaven” and
  2. because that is the way the prophets in the past were treated (and the way Jesus the Prophet will also be treated).

At a first reading, it seems like a classical example of religion as the ‘opium of the people’: Be happy that you are having such a hard time now because there is a wonderful future waiting for you in the next world. It was the message that Karl Marx mocked the capitalist-ruled churches of preaching to the exploited ‘proletariat’.

And the second part is not likely to go down well in our contemporary developed world. “”Woe to you who are rich [he can’t be serious!], you have received your comfort already.” “Woe to you who are full, because you will be hungry; woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep; woe to you who are spoken well of. That is how they treated the false prophets.”

How are we to understand these sayings which turn our common worldview upside down? I think they have to be seen in the light of the Kingdom, in the kind of society that Jesus came to set up, a society based on mutual love and sharing and support. A Kingdom for this world and not just the next. The coming of such a society could only be good news for the poor and destitute (material and otherwise), for those suffering from hunger (physical and otherwise), for those depressed by deep sorrow and for those abused and rejected for their commitment to Jesus and his Way.

On the other hand it would not be good news for those self-focused people who amass material wealth at the expense of others, who indulge in excessive consumption of the world’s goods, who live lives centred on personal hedonism and pleasure, and who feed off the envy and adulation of those around them. There is really no place for such people in the Kingdom. To enter fully into the Kingdom they have to unload all these concerns and obsessions and let go. Instead of focusing on what they can get; they will focus on what they can share of what they have.

A clear example is of the rich young man in the Gospel. How rich he was – and yet how sad he was! Compare him with Zacchaeus, whom we will be meeting later on.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1234g/

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Lectio Divina from The Carmelites

Reflection

• The Gospel today presents four blessings and four curses in Luke’s Gospel. There is a progressive revelation in the way in which Luke presents the teaching of Jesus. Up to 6, 16, he says many times, that Jesus taught the people, but he did not describe the content of the teaching (Lk 4, 15.31-32.44; 5, 1.3.15.17; 6, 6). Now, after having said that Jesus sees the crowd desirous to hear the Word of God, Luke presents the first great discourse which begins with the exclamation: “Blessed are you who are poor!” And “Alas for you, rich!” and then takes up all the rest of the chapter (Lk 6, 12-49). Some call this Discourse the “Discourse of the Plain” because, according to Luke, Jesus came down from the mountain and stopped in a place which was plain and there he pronounced his discourse. In Matthew’s Gospel, this same discourse is given on the mountain (Mt 5, 1) and is called “The Sermon on the Mountain”. In Matthew, in this discourse there are eight Beatitudes, which trace a program of life for the Christian communities of Jewish origin. In Luke, the sermon is shorter and more radical. It contains only four Beatitudes and four curses, directed to the Hellenistic communities, formed by rich and poor. This discourse of Jesus will be meditated on in the daily Gospel of the next days.

• Luke 6, 20: Blessed are you, poor! Looking at the disciples, Jesus declares: “Blessed are you who are poor, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours!” This declaration identifies the social category of the disciples. They are poor! And Jesus promises to them: “The Kingdom is yours!” It is not a promise made for the future. The verb is in the present. The Kingdom belongs to them already. They are blessed now. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes explicit the sense of this and says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit!” (Mt 5, 3). They are the poor who have the Spirit of Jesus; because there are some poor who have the mentality of the rich. The disciples of Jesus are poor and have the mentality of the poor. Like Jesus, they do not want to accumulate, but they assume their poverty and with him, they struggle for a more just life together, where there will be fraternity and sharing of goods, without any discrimination.

• Luke 6, 21-22: Blessed are you, who now hunger and weep. In the second and third Beatitude, Jesus says: “Blessed are who are hungry now, because you shall have your full! Blessed are you, who are weeping now, you shall laugh!” One part of the phrase is in the present and the other in the future. What we live and suffer now is not definitive; what is definitive is the Kingdom of God which we are constructing with the force of the Spirit of Jesus. To construct the Kingdom presupposes pain, suffering and persecution, but something is certain: the Kingdom will be attained, and you will have your fill and you will laugh!”

• Luke 6, 23: Blessed are you when people hate you…! The 4thBeatitude refers to the future: “Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out on account of the Son of Man!” Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look, your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way your ancestors treated the prophets!” With these words of Jesus, Luke encourages the communities of his time, because they were persecuted. Suffering is not death rattle, but the pain of birth pangs. It is a source of hope! Persecution was a sign that the future that had been announced by Jesus was arriving, being reached. The communities were following the right path.

• Luke 6, 24-25: Alas for you who are rich! Alas for you who now have your fill and who laugh! After the four Beatitudes in favour of the poor and of the excluded, follow four threats or curses against the rich and those for whom everything goes well and are praised by everybody. The four threats have the same identical literary form as the four Beatitudes. The first one is expressed in the present. The second and the third one have a part in the present and another part in the future. And the fourth one refers completely to the future. These threats are found only in Luke’s Gospel and not in that of Matthew. Luke is more radical in denouncing injustices.

Before Jesus, on the plains there are no rich people. There are only sick and poor people, who have come from all parts (Lk 6, 17-19). But Jesus says: “Alas for you the rich!” And this because Luke, in transmitting these words of Jesus, is thinking more of the communities of his time. In those communities there are rich and poor people, and there is discrimination of the poor on the part of the rich, the same discrimination which marked the structure of the Roman Empire (cf. Tg 5, 1-6; Rv 3, 17-19). Jesus criticizes the rich very hard and directly: You rich have already received consolation! You are already filled, but you are still hungry! Now you are laughing, but you will be afflicted and will weep! This is a sign that for Jesus poverty is not something fatal, nor the fruit of prejudices, but it is the fruit of unjust enrichment on the part of others.

• Luke 6, 26: Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you, because this was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets! This fourth threat refers to the sons of those who in the past praised the false prophets; because some authority of the Jews used its prestige and authority to criticize Jesus.

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Personal questions

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• Do we look at life and at persons with the same look of Jesus? What do you think in your heart: is a poor and hungry person truly happy? The stories which we see on Television and the propaganda of the market, what ideal of happiness do they present?
• In saying: “Blessed are the poor”, did Jesus want to say that the poor have to continue to be poor?

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Concluding Prayer

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Upright in all that he does,
Yahweh acts only in faithful love.
He is close to all who call upon him,
all who call on him from the heart. (Ps 145,17-18)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-620-26

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From The “Anawim” for Today’s Mass Readings
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Temporal blessings yield temporal rewards at best: “Your consolation is now.” At worst, they can interfere with our real purpose in life. Woe to us if we exchange our eternal glory for a few days or years of earthly satisfaction. We are blessed if we keep in mind the joys that await those who remain faithful: “Rejoice and exult, for your reward shall be great in heaven.”
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, June 6, 2016 — Your reward will be great in heaven

June 5, 2016

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 359

Sermon On The Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Reading 1 1 KGS 17:1-6

Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab:
“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve,
during these years there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.”
The LORD then said to Elijah:
“Leave here, go east
and hide in the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.
You shall drink of the stream,
and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.”
So he left and did as the LORD had commanded.
He went and remained by the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.
Ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning,
and bread and meat in the evening,
and he drank from the stream.

Responsorial Psalm PS 121:1BC-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (see 2) Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;
whence shall help come to me?
My help is from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
May he not suffer your foot to slip;
may he slumber not who guards you:
Indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps,
the guardian of Israel.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD is your guardian; the LORD is your shade;
he is beside you at your right hand.
The sun shall not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Alleluia MT 5:12A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad;
for your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

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Related:

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Commentary on Matthew 5:1-12 From Living Space

Sermon on the Mount

Today we begin reading from Matthew’s gospel and will continue to do so for several weeks to come. We begin with chapter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount.

In reading Matthew’s gospel we need to remember that it was directed primarily at a readership with a Jewish background and in this it differs greatly from Mark. One of Matthew’s aims is to present Jesus as the new Moses, transcending but not putting aside the law given to the Israelites by the first Moses. And, as the law of Moses is contained in what we call the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, so the law or teaching of Jesus is presented uniquely in this gospel by five long discourses.

The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount and it consists mainly of the qualities which are expected of a follower of the new Law and the new Moses, Jesus.

It begins with what we call the Eight Beatitudes. It could be said that these have been greatly under-rated in the life of the Christian churches, Catholic and otherwise. Most people tend to see the centre of Christian living in the Ten Commandments and yet they really belong to the Hebrew Testament, they are part of that Law which the coming of Jesus did not nullify but transcended. They are, of course, still valid as moral guidelines but, in many ways, they fall far short of what is presented by Jesus in the Beatitudes.

It would seem, in fact, that Matthew is presenting the Beatitudes as taking over the role of the Commandments and this is indicated by the prominent place they have in forming the opening of the first discourse. They are, as it were, a manifesto of Jesus’ message and his call to see the world in his way. They express the necessary attitudes of those who belong to the Kingdom. Those who have these attitudes already have entered that Kingdom.

Perhaps a few words about the ‘Kingdom’ are in order. In many ways, Matthew’s gospel can be called ‘a Gospel of the Kingdom’. The phrase that Matthew consistently uses, however, is ‘Kingdom of heaven’. For many people this can be misleading because it causes them to think that Jesus is talking about the next life, our life in ‘heaven’. So that the Beatitudes are interpreted as conditions to be observed by those who want to go to heaven after they die.

This, I believe, would be a serious misreading of the text. Matthew uses the term ‘kingdom of heaven’ because, mindful of the Jewish background of his readers, he does not like to mention the name of God directly. He uses other circumlocutions in the course of his gospel to get around using God’s name. As when he has Jesus say, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them.” By using the passive in the second half of the statement, he avoids mentioning the Doer, God. The other gospels have no hesitation in talking about the ‘Kingdom of God’ and that is what Matthew also means.

What is this kingdom? It is not a place. The Greek wordbasileia(basileia) is an abstract word which means ‘kingship’ or ‘reign’ rather than ‘kingdom’, which suggests a territory. ‘Kingship’ or ‘reign’ on the contrary suggests power. To belong to the Kingdom or Kingship of God, then, is to put oneself fully, consciously and deliberately under the power of God, to experience that power and be empowered by it. That power is above all the power of agape-love.

When we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come”, we are not talking about a future life after death but praying that people everywhere put themselves under the loving power of God. That is made clear by the petition immediately following: “Your will be doneon earth…” Our first call as Christians is to belong to, to enter that Kingdom and not just to be a member of the Church.

The Church is, in so far as it is faithful to the call of Christ, part of the Kingdom but the Kingdom extends far beyond the membership of the Church. The Church is, as it were, the sacrament or visible sign of the Kingdom. As examples, I would suggest that people like Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama are people who are very much full of the spirit of the Kingdom, more so, I dare to say, than many of us who are baptised. It is significant, I think, that Gandhi was particularly fond of the Beatitudes and identified with them.

It is time now to look at today’s text.

It begins with Jesus seeing the crowds and going up a hill. Moses, too, delivered God’s law from an elevated place, Mount Sinai. In neither case can we identify the actually mountain or hill, although traditionally, of course, a hill in Palestine has been called the Mount of the Beatitudes.

In the traditional way of a teacher, Jesus sits down to teach. We see him doing the same in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:20). He is joined by his disciples and it is not clear whether they were the primary object of his teaching or that the crowds were also included. The teaching, of course, is directed to followers and, in particular, to those reading the gospel.

Jesus begins the discourse with the wonderful words of the Beatitudes. There are eight of them, each one beginning with the words, “Happy are those…” ‘Happy’ is a translation of the Greek adjective makarios (makarios) which includes not only the idea of happiness but also of good fortune, of being specially blessed. So we can translate it as “Blessed indeed are those…” or “Fortunate indeed are those…”

It is important to realise that being a follower of Christ is intended to be a source of deep happiness and a realisation that one is truly fortunate to have discovered this vision of life.

At a first reading, the Beatitudes seem to fly in the face of commonly accepted ideals of the good life. It takes a deeper reading to see their inner truth.

How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Gospel in general shows great concern for the poor, that is, all those people who are deprived of what they rightfully need to lead a life of decent dignity. Why should the poor be particularly blessed? As people living in deprivation, obviously they are not. But in terms of the Kingdom they are blessed because in the Kingdom, where love, compassion and justice prevail there is no place for such inequality. The Kingdom is an environment of interlocking relationships where people take care of each other and where the resources of all are shared according to the needs of all. The Kingdom is a place of blessings and happiness for the poor because it spells the end of their poverty. The poor are the “little ones” that Jesus speaks about as qualification for entering the Kingdom. They are the “last” who will be first. And, while ‘poverty’ in a wider sense can be applied to all, Jesus is thinking especially of the material simplicity that he expects from his disciples, a poverty which he himself experienced with “nowhere to lay his head”. Wealth can only mean depriving the needy of what they should have.

Matthew is unique in using the term ‘poor in spirit’. It is a significant addition. While the Gospel in speaking of the poor is mainly and rightly concerned with the materially poor, Matthew’s phrase can broaden the concept. Because, in reality, there are many other ways in which people can be deprived and regarded as poor. We are more sensitive to this in our own day with our deeper insights into psychological and sociological factors. People can, although materially well off, be literally poor in spirit. That is, they have little spirit, very little happiness, lives of full of stress and anxiety and anger and resentment. These are all the result of our highly competitive, each-person-for-himself society which is everything that the Kingdom is not. Taken in that sense, the Beatitude applies to a very large number of people.

Happy the gentle; they shall have the earth for their heritage.

The word ‘gentle’ is variously translated as ‘meek’, ‘lowly’, ‘humble’. The Greek word comes from the noun prautes (prauths). The beatitude is reminiscent of a phrase in Psalm 37: “The humble shall have the land for their own to enjoy untroubled peace.”

Probably ‘gentle’ is the better rendering. It suggests someone who is kind and caring and not particularly assertive and dominating. In our rough and tumble society such people normally get pushed aside and can thus be classed among the ‘lowly’ and the ‘humble’.  But they are not necessarily ‘meek’, which suggests people who allow themselves to be trampled on. Rather they belong to those who subscribe to active non-violence. That is, they will never resort to any form of violent behaviour to achieve their goals but they are active and pro-active, not passive – or meek. We think of people like Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day. To be ‘gentle’ in this sense requires a great inner strength and, of course, in the Kingdom there is a very desirable need for such people. It is there that they will come into their own.

In some texts this Beatitude is interchanged with the following and sometimes it is presented as an addition to the first about the “poor in spirit” where “gentle” is understood as “lowly” cf. Ps 37:11). In this case there would only be seven Beatitudes, a more biblical number.

Happy those who mourn; they shall be comforted.

Mourning and happiness would seem to be contradictory to each other. It does not say what the mourning might be about. It could be the death of a family member or a loved one. But it could be something quite different altogether.

Again we have to see the beatitude in the context of the Kingdom. There, those who mourn – for whatever reason – can be sure of experiencing the comfort and support of their brothers and sisters. That is something that they cannot be always sure of in a world where people are too busy taking care of their own immediate interests. Mourning by itself is never a happy experience but it can become a blessing when surrounded by the right people as their love and concern are poured out.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right; they shall be satisfied.

‘What is right’, ‘what is just’. Justice is done when each person is accorded what belongs to them. A just world is a world of right relationships; in the Kingdom that is realised. And so, those who truly hunger and thirst to see justice done in our world for every single person will see their dreams and hopes come to fruition.

It is a hunger and thirst which everyone of us should pray to have. Only when we all have that hunger and thirst will justice be achieved and the Kingdom become a reality. We have made progress over the years but we still have a long, long way to go.

Happy the merciful; they shall have mercy shown them.

Mercy, compassion, the ability to forgive fully. The Kingdom is a world full of mercy and forgiveness. And just as we will be ready to forgive others we will find that others will be ready to forgive us when we fail in our responsibilities towards others. In the Lord’s Prayer, which is a prayer of the Kingdom, this is what we ask for: “Forgive us our sins because we forgive the sins of those who have offended us.” In fact, it is impossible for those who belong to the Kingdom to be offended and forgiveness comes easily to them.

That does not mean, of course, that we condone every wrong. The question of justice always remains. But condemning wrong does not exclude healing wounds caused by the hurt which wrongdoing causes.

And mercy understood as compassion is a particularly desirable quality in a Kingdom person. Such a person not only experiences pity for those who suffer but knows how to enter into and empathise with what they are going through. This was a quality found again and again in Jesus himself.

Happy the pure in heart; they shall see God.

‘Pure’ here is not referring primarily to sexual purity. The pure in heart are those whose vision is totally free of any distortion or prejudice. They see things exactly as they are. As a result, they have little difficulty in recognising the presence and the action of God in the people and the environment around them.

This purity of heart, this ability to be able to see with perfect clarity is truly a gift. It requires a high level of integrity on our part; but the rewards are enormous.

Happy the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.

Surely one of the most beautiful of the beatitudes and the one we would all love to have applied to ourselves. In a world so full of divisions and conflicts of all kinds the role of the peacemaker is so much needed. It is something we can all do, starting in our own homes, then in our working places and the wider society. It is something we can do as individuals and in groups, as parishes and churches.

And, how true that, as peacemakers, we can be called ‘children of God’! The Letter to the Ephesians speaks beautifully of Jesus as making peace, breaking down walls between people, by his death on the cross (Eph 2:14ff).

Finally, Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Most people would hardly regard being persecuted, which could involve prison, torture and death, as a source of happiness. But it is not the persecution that triggers the happiness but the reason why it is willingly undergone.

Right from the beginnings of the Church, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, Christians rejoiced to be found worthy to suffer with and like their Lord in the proclamation of his message and way of life. That way of life was so precious to them, such a source of meaning, that they were more than willing to give their lives to defend it.

In prison, they sang songs and prayed as later the civil rights leaders (most of them committed Christians) in the United States would sing “We shall overcome” as they rode the paddy wagons to jail. It is a much more painful experience to compromise with our deepest convictions in order to avoid criticism or physical suffering. They are indeed, as Jesus says, the successors to the great prophets of the Hebrew Testament.

Happy are those who with integrity can stand by their convictions whatever the cost.

Some people have seen in these Beatitudes a portrait of Jesus himself and certainly they should be the portrait of every Christian and of every Kingdom person. They are the charter people everywhere (and not just Christians) are called to follow. They go far beyond what is demanded of in the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are not so difficult to follow and, in so far as several of them are expressed in the negative (‘Thou shalt not…’), they can be observed by doing nothing! There is no way, however, that people can ever say they observe any Beatitude to the fullest. They always call us to a further and higher level.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2102g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 JUNE 2016, Monday, 10th Week in Ordinary Time
LIVING A BLESSED LIFE ENTAILS SERVING GOD AS OUR LORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KINGS 17:1-6; MATTHEW 5:1-12  ]

All of us seek happiness in life, yet few of us have found it.  Why?  Because we seek happiness according to the ways of the world.

The world’s pursuit of happiness is epitomized in the person of King Ahab in today’s first reading.  He was the King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.   By marrying Jezebel, daughter of the King of the Sidonians, he created military and economic alliance with them.  Although it brought the country prosperity, it also resulted in a crisis of faith.  With the influx of the Canaanites, the Israelites began to apostatize and worship their gods of Baal, which they believed to be responsible for fertility, life, the rain and the seasons.   As part of their ritual, they even hired temple prostitutes so that the land would be fertile and the crops would grow.  It is within this context that the prophets associated prostitution not just with moral licentiousness, but with apostasy and abandonment of Yahweh.

Isn’t this the way of the world as well?  It is power, pleasure, sex and glory that determine the way we do things.  These are the new symbols of idolatry in our days.  The contemporary man believes only in himself and the idols of the world, which he believes will guarantee him happiness.

But the gospel’s way to happiness is different from that of the world’s.  Jesus gave us a blueprint of what a blessed life is like in the beatitudes.  The values proffered are just the opposite of the world’s.  The beatitudes speak of a blessed life which is the life of God, the life of Mary and the life of Jesus.

So what is this blessed life?  And how can one live this blessed life?  It is a life lived in love and service for others.  Blessedness therefore has to do with a life of authentic relationship with God, others and self.   When we examine the beatitudes, we find that all of them pertain to the way we should relate with God, ourselves and others.

A blessed life in the first place entails a life that is lived in total dependence on God.  God is the foundation of this life.  A person who lives from God and in Him will never fear about his future or about his life.  This is the kind of life that Jesus lived. That is why He could say, “How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Only when we are deeply rooted in the love of God, can we surrender our lives to Him in faith.

Secondly, a blessed life is a life of integrity.  Only a man who is at peace with himself can find real happiness in life.  This is what Jesus asks of us when He said, “Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.”  He also declared, “Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.”  Truly, those who live a life of purity before God, are contrite for their sins and seek to do the right and just things in life will find themselves at peace as they have a clear conscience before God and man.  He is able to live such a life even in the face of persecution, for his strength comes from his deep trust in divine protection.  Indeed, Jesus Himself who was persecuted and maligned for helping the poor and the sinners understood this deep inner peace.  He could thus say, “Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Thirdly, a blessed life of integrity must flow into a life of love and compassion for others.  A man who has seen God and is conscious of his own needs and pain will naturally be open to the wounds and pains of his fellowmen.  Yes, he will be merciful when he sees the sufferings of others.  Recognizing the pain of division and disunity, he seeks to be a peacemaker in reconciling opposing forces and, most all, he is a champion of the underdogs and the oppressed.  Rightly so, Jesus said, “Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.”

The first reading provides us a living example of such a person in the life of Elijah.  In fact, his name itself is symbolic for it means “Yahweh is my God.”   It is significant that he came from Tishbe, a town beyond the Jordan.  Being born poor in a remote region of the country, he was protected from the pagan influence and learnt to depend on God alone for his security.  Hence, we can understand why Elijah was so staunchly protective of his faith and felt responsible for keeping the purity of the faith of Israel against such alien contamination and false compromises.  He spent his whole life seeking to restore the covenant and reform the sins of Israel, not just against God because of the worship of Baal and the fertility gods, but also against injustice and immorality.

Elijah was a man of deep faith who knew the power of the word of God.  Inspired by the Spirit, he spoke the Word of God from his heart without mincing his words.   He was totally confident when he prophesied that no rain or dew would fall on Israel for three and a half years.  St James held him up as a model of a man of faith. (Cf James 5:17).   Because of his prayers, drought came to Israel.

Elijah in many ways followed Christ in being a witness to God even in the face of intense opposition and persecution.  He remained persistent in his faith, unwavering in his devotion to God and courageous in opposing the false prophets.  Because of his fidelity, God the Faithful One protected Elijah and sustained him by providentially sending the ravens to feed him in his hunger in the desert.  Because he had borne God’s burden, the Lord would also bear his burden.

Jesus who preached the beatitudes Himself lived them in His very own life.  That is why His is a blessed life; a life lived for God, with Him and for His fellow brothers and sisters.  Let us take Jesus and Elijah as our models in faith as we strive to live authentic lives of integrity, fidelity and charity.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 1, 2015 — All Saints

October 31, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

Sermon On The Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Reading 1 RV 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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Reading 2 1 JN 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

Alleluia MT 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
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R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:1-12A

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

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Sermon on the Mount, Getty Museum
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From Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Scripture Readings: Book of Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; First Letter of Saint John 3:1-3; Gospel According to Saint Matthew 5:1-12a

This year the Church’s liturgical festival to celebrate all of God’s saints, officially canonized or not, falls on a Sunday. Being a “big feast,” the celebration of All Saints takes the place of the usual Sunday in Ordinary time and becomes a focal point for this Sunday’s worship by God’s people in the Catholic Church throughout the world. We honor this Sunday all saints, those who now enjoy the glory of heaven with God.

Even if not canonized by name, “all saints” are recognized by God and the Church and form a “cloud of witnesses” (see Letter to the Hebrews 13:1) in God’s presence. Their dwelling with God is a source of inspiration and edification for us, literally meaning our being “built up” to follow in their footsteps.

The Solemnity of All Saints is intended in part to sustain and even raise our sense of hope in longing to “be with God” forever in heaven. This is what the saints, who have gone before us in faith, now enjoy and which we hope to experience as well as end our earthly existence, entering a new life in Christ beyond time and space.

This Sunday, and really every Sunday and day that we take time to ponder the mystery of God-with-us, we realize that it is not in vain that we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe so as to secure our steps in the way of love in this life and then to enjoy for eternity, “life on high,” as it is sometimes described, with the Holy Trinity, as well as all the angels and saints, in Paradise or Heaven. This we hold firm to as a matter of faith and dogma.

The number of the elect or saved, one hundred and forty-four thousand, described in the Book of Revelation is not to be understood as a literal number, but a figurative one. It indicates a perfect number, and we are certainly called to be among that number, however many it may actually be when all is said and done.

On one level, the actual number of “saved” is not so important as the fact that there are multitudes, coming from everywhere over the ages, who through a life of perseverance in the ways of the Lord are now enjoying the rewards of eternal life in God’s presence. A sublime and great mystery this is, but something we hold dear as believers in God and members of the Church.

The Apostle Saint John speaks in his letter assigned to this solemnity of All Saints of the certainty that is to characterize followers of Jesus, who are not just called to be, but really are children of God, awaiting the fullness of what that means in the life yet to come. Even in this life, though, we participate to some degree in God’s glory, part and parcel of a life of faith, hope and love in God’s Church.

We can say that in celebrating All Saints no one missing from the picture and there are no favorites. Sure, we may have our favorites, such as for me, Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Charles de Foucauld and others, but in God’s sight they are equal and all of them “full participants” in God’s life in heaven. So too no one saint has a head start on the others. All were called, as we are all called, to holiness, meaning nearness to God and conformed to God’s likeness by a life of loving service of God and neighbor.

The theme of growing in holiness or likeness to God continues in this Sunday’s Gospel passage from Saint Matthew, where Jesus gives his followers the “Beatitudes,” as they are usually called.

Jesus is seated, in the rabbinical manner of teaching, and gives instructions to everyone, no matter what may be their financial situation or age, and merely thirsting for holiness as the needed criterion to take up his teaching.

The Beatitudes make few demands but can be very demanding nonetheless. Daily interacting with others requires patience, tact, genuineness and many other virtues. We are to live openly and trustingly within our family and faith community, with co-workers or fellow-students, wherever we meet and rub shoulders with others. Therein lies the heart of our going to God.

We may tend to think of more dramatic actions are needed to become holy, such as going to the slums or the ends of the earth and ministering to the poor there. Some are indeed called to that and find holiness in so doing. For the vast majority of followers of Christ, though, the task is to live and love well in the ordinary places and ways that are required in daily living.

I like this quote from the late biblical scholar, Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, of the Passionist Order. He says, in commenting on the Beatitudes:

“In the bond of faith within the extended family of the Church or within our immediate family or neighborhood and community, we realize how our being poor in spirit has settled the reign of God in our midst; how consoling others in their sorrow brings the blessedness of forgetting one’s own sorrow; how sharing one’s goods with others soothes the hunger and thirst within ourselves. With such blessed single-heartedness in reaching outward, we become “children of God” and even “see God” (from “Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time, Weeks 23 – 34,” Paulist Press, 1984, page 412).

In other words, there are many opportunities for sanctity in our daily life. Openness to God’s presence and activity in our life is a path toward sharing one day with all the angels and saints the reward of eternal life.

Yes, All Saints Day is about the blessed who have gone before us, but also an invitation to be counted among them eventually, for therein lies true fulfillment and happiness.

We long to see God’s face. May we always eagerly walk in the ways that Jesus has taught, the path to wholeness and holiness open before us life, a mysterious and wonderful road that leads to God’s house.

All you saints of God, pray for us!

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SAINTS ARE CALLED TO SHARE IN THE LIFE OF GOD BY LIVING OUT THE BEATITUDES OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: REV 7:2-4, 9-14; JN 3:1-3; MT 5:1-12

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”  This is truly a great privilege of ours to be called and chosen as God’s children.  In other words, John tells us that we are all created to share in the intimacy of God’s life.  Our origin and destiny lie in our relationship with God.  Our calling in life is therefore bound to our destiny as well.  It means therefore that our life on earth is but the flowering of the divine life that is already given to us at birth and especially at our baptism.  We are called to live out our divine sonship in this life.  In this way, we will one day attain the fullness of sonship when we will become like God since we share in His life fully, which is another way of saying that “we shall see him as he really is.”

This is indeed a real challenge because living out our sonship is not an easy task.  We are constantly meeting challenges, trials and sufferings in life and called to choose between sin and God.  The fact is that some of us have chosen against Him because we have forgotten our origin and destiny.  That is why St John says that “because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.”   By choosing against God, we have also chosen sin and evil and therefore death.  Thus, because none of us is truly living our life as we should, as children of God, we must therefore purify ourselves in love.  Like the saints and martyrs before us, who have had their robes washed white by the blood of the lamb, we too will also have to be purified by the blood of the lamb.

How then can we be purified by the blood of the lamb?  We must not take this expression too literally as if the blood of Jesus can wash us clean.  Rather, this is a metaphorical way of saying how Jesus in His life and in His death has shown us the way to be saints.  This way is given to us in today’s beatitudes, which is actually the blue-print Jesus has for us in our journey towards the Kingdom; one which He lived out in His very own life.  So what Jesus is teaching us is based on His very own convictions – which He ultimately paid with His own blood and life by surrendering His life for us on the cross.  What, then, is this blueprint?

Firstly, we are called to be poor in spirit.  This simply means that only those of us who are docile to the Spirit can truly be happy in life.  Docility calls for openness and a humble recognition of one’s limitations.  So long as we are open to growth and learning, then we will always be given opportunities to perfect our life to that of God’s.  Conversely, those of us who think that we know everything cannot grow because of our pride and self-sufficiency.

Secondly, we are called to be gentle.  Gentleness in the gospel means meekness and sensitivity.  Unless we are sensitive towards others and ourselves, we will not be able to be in communion with others.  To be sensitive is to be aware of what we are doing, how we are feeling.  In this way, we will also become sensitive towards the feelings, needs and dignity of our fellow human beings.  Without gentleness and sensitivity, we cannot treat others with love and respect.

Thirdly, in order to live in the communion of saints, Jesus says that we must mourn.   Those who mourn will be comforted.  To mourn is to be repentant of our sinfulness and lack of love in life.  It is recognizing one’s weaknesses and resolving not to commit them again.  Mourning requires that we understand the extent and depth of our sins so that conversion is brought about not because of guilt but because of true sorrow for one’s sinful actions.

Fourthly, the beatitudes of Jesus tell us that we must hunger and thirst for what is right.  Fighting for truth, justice and righteousness is truly a sign that we are in communion with the saints.  If we do not stand up for the oppression of our brothers, we have not yet really fulfilled our part in the communion of saints.  There will be no peace and joy in our lives, for how can we pretend that everything is all right when our fellow human beings are suffering?  Indeed, it is better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong.  And not doing anything to redress the rights of others would be a sin of omission.

Fifthly, we are told that “those who are merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.”   There is much truth in this beatitude.  We can experience the mercy of God only when we learn to be merciful towards others.  Being merciful is to be compassionate with our fellow human beings.  Compassion requires us to identify with others and to be with them in their sufferings.  And because we are merciful, we will also learn to appreciate and thank God for our present situations.  Compassion helps us to know that we are not alone in this world in our struggles in life.  That is why, in showing mercy to others, we also show mercy to ourselves for we recognize the mercy of God towards us.

Sixthly, the saints of God must be pure in heart.  Only then they can see God.  Purity of heart requires purity of mind.  When a person is pure in his intention and in his thinking, he is neither malicious nor judgmental.  A pure heart is therefore one who has a clear conscience and always lives according to the gospel life.  Those who are not pure in heart, those who live in guilt, will also necessarily live in fear.  That is why these people are not only afraid to see God but also afraid to look at others in the eye.  Deep within, they know that they are not truthful and honest in their dealings.  They suffer from guilt, greed and fear.  However, if a person has purity of mind and heart, he walks about freely, without anxiety of any sort.  He is always ready to die at any time because he carries no guilt in him.  Such a person, because he is liberated from within, will therefore be able to see the goodness of God in others and in his life.  Hence, those who are pure in heart see God in everyone and, most of all, within himself.

In the seventh beatitude, Jesus tells us that the saint must also be a peacemaker.  Why is that so?  Because being a member of the communion of saints, we do not live in isolation.  To be truly Christ is to be concerned for others.  And surely if one member of our family is not in union with the family, we would want to reconcile them.  Living the life of the communion of saints necessarily entails that we become peacemakers.  We do not bring disunity and sufferings to others by breaking up the unity of the family.  Instead, we strive to live in unity with others by respecting each other.  But more than that, we also have the responsibility to reconcile those members of the family that are alienated from each other or from God.   In this way, by being peacemakers we are called sons of God because Jesus as the Son of God is the bridge or mediator in our reconciliation with God.

Finally, Jesus tells us that happiness comes to those who are persecuted on His account.  To suffer persecution for the sake of truth is to suffer on account of the name of Jesus.   Even when we are persecuted for proclaiming the name of Jesus, for proclaiming the gospel life, we must be glad since we have done nothing wrong.  It is surely better to die in the service of life than to die a selfish death or as an accomplice of evil and social injustices.  Such is the great joy of knowing that we have suffered on account of Jesus because we know that ultimately the true joy of life is when we give up even our own lives for the salvation of others.  No greater love can a man give than to lay down his life for his friends and, better still, for his enemies.

Yes, today as we celebrate All Saints Day, let us thank God for this gift of divine life that He has already given to us.  We pray for His grace that we will bring to completion the good work He has begun in us; so that the seed of divine life in us will flourish into the Kingdom of God.  When that happens, we will share in the fullness of life, a condition that is just beyond our human imagination as John tells us.  But one thing is certain, there will be total joy, total love because we will live with God in God’s kingdom.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Jesus’ words on the Beatitudes that Matthew drew from his sources, were condensed in short and isolated phrases, and the Evangelist has placed them in a broader context, which Biblical scholars call the “sermon on the mount” (chapters 5-7). This sermon is considered like the statutes or Magna Carta that Jesus gave to the community as a normative and binding word that defines a Christian.

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The many themes contained in this long sermon are not to be seen as collection of exhortations, but rather as a clear and radical indication of the new attitude of the disciples towards God, oneself and the brothers and sisters. Some expressions used by Jesus may seem exaggerated, but they are used to stress reality and thus are realistic in the context although not so in a literary sense: for instance in vv.29-30: «If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away, for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell». This manner of speaking indicates the effect desired to be created in the reader, who must understand correctly Jesus’ words so as not to distort their meaning.

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Our focus, for liturgical reasons, will be on the first part of the “sermon on the mount”, that is the part dealing with the proclamation of the beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12).

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Some details:

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Matthew invites the reader to listen to the beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus with a rich concentration of details. First he indicates the place where Jesus proclaims his sermon: “Jesus went onto the mountain” (5:1). That is why exegetes call this the “sermon on the mount” even though Luke places this sermon on level ground (Lk 6:20-26). The geographic location of the “mountain” could be a veiled reference to an episode in the OT quite like ours: that is, when Moses proclaims the Decalogue on mount Sinai. It is possible that Matthew wishes to present Jesus as the new Moses who proclaims the new law.

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Another detail that strikes us is the physical posture of Jesus as he proclaims his words: “when he was seated”. This posture confers upon him a note of authority in the legislative sense. The disciples and the “crowd” gather around him: this detail shows what Jesus had to say was for all to hear. We note that Jesus’ words do not present impossible matters, nor are they addressed to a special group of people, nor do they mean to establish a code of ethics exclusively for his inner circle. Jesus’ demands are concrete, binding and decisively radical.

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Someone branded Jesus’ sermon as follows: «For me, this is the most important text in the history of humankind. It is addressed to all, believers and non, and after twenty centuries it is still the only light still shining in the darkness of violence, fear and solitude in which the West finds itself because of its pride and selfishness» (Gilbert Cesbron).

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The word “blessed” (in Greek makarioi) in our context does not say “softly” but cries out happiness found throughout the Bible. For instance, in the OT, those called “blessed” are those who live out the precepts of Wisdom (Sir 25,7-10). The prayerful person of the Psalms defines “blessed” as those who “fear”, or more precisely those who love the Lord, expressing this love in the observance of the precepts contained in the word of God (Sal 1,1; 128,1).

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Matthew’s originality lies in adding a secondary phrase that specifies each beatitude: for instance, the main assertion “blessed are the poor in spirit” is clarified by an added phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Another difference with the OT is that Jesus’ words proclaim a saving blessedness here and now and without any limitations. For Jesus, all can attain happiness on condition that they remain united to Him.

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The first three beatitudes:

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i) The first cry concerns the poor: “How blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs”. The reader may be shocked: how can the poor be happy? In the Bible, the poor are those who empty themselves of themselves and above all renounce the presumption of building their own present and future alone, and thus leave room for and focus on God’s project and his Word. The poor, always in the biblical sense, is not someone closed in on himself, miserable, negative, but someone who nurtures being open to God and to others. God is all his/her treasure. We could say with St.Teresa of Avila: happy are those who experience that “God alone suffices!”, meaning that they are rich in God.

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A great modern spiritual author described poverty as follows: «As long as one does not empty one’s heart, God cannot fill it with himself. As you empty your heart, so does the Lord fill it. Poverty is emptiness, not only in what concerns the future but also the past. Not a regret or memory, not a worry or wish! God is not in the past, God is not in the future: He is in the present! Leave your past to God, leave your future to God. Your poverty is to live the present, the Presence of God who is Eternity» (Divo Barsotti).

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This is the first beatitude, not just because it is the first of many, but because it seems to encapsulate all the others in their diversity.

ii)Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted”. One can mourn because of a great pain or suffering. This underlines the fact that we are dealing with a serious situation even though the motives or the cause are not mentioned. If we wish to identify today “those who mourn” we could think of all the Christians who hold dear the demands of the kingdom and suffer because of many negative aspects in the Church; rather than focus on holiness, the Church presents divisions and lacerations. They may also be those who suffer because of their sins and inconsistencies and who, in some way, slow down their conversion. To these, only God can bring the news of “consolation””.

iii)Blessed are the gentle, they shall have the earth as inheritance”. The third beatitude is about gentleness. This is a quality that is not so popular today. Rather, for many it has a negative connotation and is taken for weakness or the kind of imperturbability that knows how to control calculatingly one’s own emotions. What does the word “gentle” mean in the Bible? The gentle are remembered as those who enjoy great peace (Ps 37:10), are happy, blessed and loved by God. They are also contrasted with evildoers, the ungodly and sinners. Thus the OT gives us a wealth of meanings that do not allow for one single definition.

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In the NT the first time we meet the word is in Matthew 11:29: “Learn from me because I am gentle and humble of heart”. A second time is in Mt 21:5, when Matthew describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and cites the prophet Zechariah 2:9: “Behold your servant comes to you gentle”. Truly, Matthew’s Gospel may be described as the Gospel of gentleness.

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Paul too says that gentleness is an identifying quality of the Christian. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 he exhorts believers “I urge you by the gentleness and forbearance of Christ”. In Galatians 5:22 gentleness is considered one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers and consists in being meek, moderate, slow to punish, kind and patient towards others. Again in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12 gentleness is an attitude that is part of the Christian and a sign of the new man in Christ.

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Finally, an eloquent witness comes from 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Your adornment should be not an exterior one, consisting of braided hair or gold jewellery or fine clothing, but the interior disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and peaceful spirit, so precious in the sight of God”.

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How does Jesus use the word “gentle”? A truly enlightening definition is the one given by the gentle person of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini “The gentle person, according to the beatitudes, is one who, in spite of the fervour of his/her feelings, remains docile and calm, not possessive, interiorly free, always extremely respectful of the mystery of freedom, imitating God in this respect who does everything with respect for the person, and urges the person to obedience without ever using violence. Gentleness is opposed to all forms of material or moral arrogance, it gains the victory of peace over war, of dialogue over imposition”.

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To this wise interpretation we add that of another famous exegete: “The gentleness spoken of in the beatitudes is none other than that aspect of humility that manifests itself in practical affability in one’s dealings with the other. Such gentleness finds its image and its perfect model in the person of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. Truly, such gentleness seems to us like a form of charity, patient and delicately attentive towards others” (Jacques Dupont).

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The word enlightens me (to meditate)

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a) Am I able to accept those little signs of poverty in my regard? For instance, the poverty of poor health and little indispositions? Do I make exorbitant demands?

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b) Am I able to accept some aspect of my poverty and fragility?

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c) Do I pray like a poor person, as one who asks with humility the grace of God, his pardon and his mercy?

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d) Inspired by Jesus’ message concerning gentleness, do I renounce violence, vengeance and a vengeful spirit?

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e) Do I encourage, in families and in my place of work, a spirit of kindness, gentleness and peace?

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f) Do I pay back any small malice, insinuations or offensive allusions with evil?

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g) Do I look after the weakest who cannot defend themselves? Am I patient with old people? Do I welcome lonely strangers who are often exploited at work?

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To pray

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a) Psalm 23:

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The Psalm seems to rotate around the title “The Lord is my shepherd”. The saints are the image of the flock on the way: they are accompanied by the goodness and loyalty of God, until they finally reach the house of the Father (L.Alonso Schökel, I salmi della fiducia, Dehoniana libri, Bologna 2006, 54)

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Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.

In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.

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Closing prayer:

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Lord Jesus, you show us the way of the beatitudes so that we may come to that happiness that is fullness of life and thus holiness. We are all called to holiness, but the only treasure of the saints is God. Your Word, Lord, calls saints all those who in baptism were chosen by your love of a Father, to be conformed to Christ. Grant, Lord, that by your grace we may achieve this conformity to Jesus Christ. We thank you, Lord, for the saints you have placed on our way and who manifest your love. We ask for your pardon if we have tarnished your face in us and denied our calling to be saints.

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http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-all-saints-matthew-51-12a

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We at Peace and Freedom often read the daily suggested readings or homilies in the booklet “Pondering the Word, The Anawim Way.” Today’s suggested reading in the “Anawim” includes Pope Francis’ Homily of 2 October 2013 at follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the Creed, after professing: “I believe in one Church”, we add the adjective “holy”; we affirm the sanctity of the Church, and this is a characteristic that has been present from the beginning in the consciousness of early Christians, who were simply called “the holy people” (cf. Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rom 8:27; 1 Cor 6:1), because they were certain that it is the action of God, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Church.

But in what sense is the Church holy if we see that the historical Church, on her long journey through the centuries, has had so many difficulties, problems, dark moments? How can a Church consisting of human beings, of sinners, be holy? Sinful men, sinful women, sinful priests, sinful sisters, sinful bishops, sinful cardinals, a sinful pope? Everyone. How can such a Church be holy?

1. To respond to this question I would like to be led by a passage from the Letter of St Paul to the Christians of Ephesus. The Apostle, taking as an example family relationships, states that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her” (5:25-26). Christ loved the Church, by giving himself on the Cross. And this means that the Church is holy because she comes from God who is holy, he is faithful to her and does not abandon her to the power of death and of evil (cf. Mt 16:18). She is holy because Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (cf. Mk 1:24), is indissolubly united to her (cf. Mt 28:20); She is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms, renews. She is not holy by her own merits, but because God makes her holy, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and of his gifts. It is not we who make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his love makes the Church holy.

2. You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see them everyday. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation for some to say: the Church is only the Church of the pure, the perfectly consistent, and expels all the rest. This is not true! This is heresy! The Church, that is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her, she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity.

“Well! Father, I am a sinner, I have tremendous sins, how can I possibly feel part of the Church? Dear brother, dear sister, this is exactly what the Lord wants, that you say to him: “Lord, here I am, with my sins”. Is one of you here without sin? Anyone? No one, not one of us. We all carry our sins with us. But the Lord wants to hear us say to him: “Forgive me, help me to walk, change my heart!”.

And the Lord can change your heart.

In the Church, the God we encounter is not a merciless judge, but like the Father in the Gospel parable. You may be like the son who left home, who sank to the depths, farthest from the Gospel. When you have the strength to say: I want to come home, you will find the door open. God will come to meet you because he is always waiting for you, God is always waiting for you, God embraces you, kisses you and celebrates.

That is how the Lord is, that is how the tenderness of our Heavenly Father is. The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost. The Church offers all the possibility of following a path of holiness, that is the path of the Christian: she brings us to encounter Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, especially in Confession and in the Eucharist; she communicates the Word of God to us, she lets us live in charity, in the love of God for all. Let us ask ourselves then, will we let ourselves be sanctified? Are we a Church that calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? Are we a Church where the love of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the others?

3. A final question: what can I, a weak fragile sinner, do? God says to you: do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high, to let yourself be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us be infected by the holiness of God. Every Christian is called to sanctity (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, nn. 19-42); and sanctity does not consist especially in doing extraordinary things, but in allowing God to act. It is the meeting of our weakness with the strength of his grace, it is having faith in his action that allows us to live in charity, to do everything with joy and humility, for the glory of God and as a service to our neighbour. There is a celebrated saying by the French writer Léon Bloy, who in the last moments of his life, said: “The only real sadness in life is not becoming a saint”. Let us not lose the hope of holiness, let us follow this path. Do we want to be saints? The Lord awaits us, with open arms; he waits to accompany us on the path to sanctity. Let us live in the joy of our faith, let us allow ourselves to be loved by the Lord… let us ask for this gift from God in prayer, for ourselves and for others.

https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20131002_udienza-generale.html

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 359

Reading 1 2 Cor1:1-7

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the Church of God that is at Corinth, with all the holy ones throughout Achaia: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.

Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad. R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Glorify the LORD with me, let us together extol his name. I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame. When the poor one called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him. R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is; blessed the man who takes refuge in him. R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Gospel Mt 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
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My own pastor today said “The Sermon on the Mount” gives us more of what we need to lead a Christ like life — or a life built upon adherence to the Ten Commandments and the Word (in the Bible).
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Once becoming somewhat “Like Jesus” allows us to eagerly do his will and follow his law.
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Our “Christ Like” attempts always have setbacks, oversights and sins. But Jesus game us His Word, the sacraments, his body and blood in the form of the Eucharist and the Mass.
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My pastor recommended the little book above: The Imitation of Christ.
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The Imitation of Christ (Latin: De Imitatione Christi) by Thomas à Kempis is a Christian devotional book. It was first composed in Latin ca.1418-1427.[1][2] It is a handbook for spiritual life arising from the Devotio Moderna movement, where Kempis was a member.
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Since Easter the meditations have often been about Jesus’ frequent reminder, “Do not be afraid” and “Trust in me, follow me, and follow the Father.”
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In my own mind, when I see or feel the “Power failure” I thank of myself or another during a space walk. The space walker is connected to “his power” and “life support” through cables and hoses to the “Mother  Ship.”
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When I “lose power” by neglecting prayer and “trust in God” — I risk cutting the hose than gives me life and start to drift off into space….
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My Spiritual Advisor recommends this daily morning prayer:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and
Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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I use this prayer (above) to put myself and my life into God’s hands every day.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Today we will be reading the Beatitudes, as they are rendered in Matthew Chapter 5. It’s the beginning of Jesus’ first big message to the people that is recorded in scripture, the sermon on the mount.  It’s a Jesus’ famous sermon all about blessings…Have you ever heard people say things like “If God gives me 28 million dollars, I’ll be blessed.Or If God stops all this pain and sickness in my body, I’ll be blessed.

Or If God would make me a little bit smarter, I’ll be blessed.

Yes, I will finally be Blessed when I am healthy, wealthy and wise?

It’s how we often hear and use the word blessing…but what Jesus has to say, as he addresses the crowds for the first time, seems exactly backwards or upside down.

He said…blessed are the poor …and the meek…those that mourn….

On the surface, it just sounds wrong….

And the reason, I believe, is that people tend to read the Beatitudes as proverbs.

Remember when we spoke of the Proverbs as Axioms of truth regarding wisdom, a number of weeks back.

A Proverb being, not a promise, but God-ordered truth that is helpful and useful as a general rule.

For example, those who walk in darkness, will lose there way and stumble. That’s a proverb. It’s not saying everyone who walks in darkness will lose there way and stumble. It is saying….this is God’s truth about darkness….people get lost in it, and tend to fall. Proverbs are truths that can have spiritual and practical applications.

The beatitudes are not proverbs.

The beatitudes are statements of fact about God’s blessings.

We know this because Jesus didn’t make guesses or pose possibilities. He spoke in fact, as the Word of God incarnate. When he said “Blessed are the poor in spirit..” he stated that as a fact.

But as a proverb, we could read this as….”To get God’s blessing, I need to be poor in spirit. Otherwise I won’t receive the Kingdom of Heaven.” or “To get God’s blessing, I need to mourn. Otherwise I won’t be comforted” or “I’ll be blessed if I am simply a meek person”

Used in this manner, we could use the beatitudes as a shopping list of ways to get God’s blessing.

Has anyone had it explained like that. Have you been encouraged to mourn to receive God’s blessing? God isn’t telling us that, we don’t have to mourn, but at some points in our life, we likely will. And a statement of fact, Jesus tells us, promises us that God will comfort you.

One preacher stated it like this: “The language of the blessing is … performative; the pronouncement of blessing actually conveys the blessing. Certainly the language is not hortatory: “We ought to be poor in spirit” or “Let us be meek” or “We must hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Preachers are too easily tempted to urge, push and exhort us to implement these qualities. Such exhortations reflect frustration before the grace of God. (This is because) It is (simply) more difficult to hear and receive (and accept) a blessing than (to embrace the idea that we must somehow earn or) attempt to achieve one.”

So before we spend one more minute talking about this topic….I’d like you to hear, receive, and accept these words.

If you live richly in the promises of Jesus Christ, and know him, and accept him as your Savior. You are blessed. You don’t have to do things to merit this blessing. You cannot earn God’s blessing, you have it.

You can’t go down a list of instructions and get more blessings. Your words and works won’t get you any more. God’s blessings simply don’t work that way.

But especially for those who are healthy, wealthy and wise, we usually feel pretty blessed. And often we get to thinking we earned it, or deserve it.

It’s been that time of year. Sit down at a big holiday meal, look at the big, juicy turkey and all the trimmings, a fire crackling in the background, family gathered and gifts stacking up. You feel pretty blessed. God sure has blessed us, we think. I know I feel that way sometimes saying the blessing before dinner. “Look at all this food.” We have all this bounty, and are so blessed.

But what about those who don’t seem to have so much? What about those who have had a loved one die and they are alone? What about those who struggle, who aren’t so confident, and powerful, who try but are not on top of the world? What about good people that have had bad things have happened to them?”

Jesus says (in so many words), “Yes, we know of those who seem obviously blessed, but God specifically blesses others who’s riches are not quite so visible.” And these hard times, low times, trying times, come to us all.

We’re going to look these words of Jesus, a verse at a time, and explore these specific blessings promised by God Himself. We’re going to look at the New Living Translation and the King James Version today as well as occasionally some other versions, partially because the wording of the King James is so familiar, but also because these verses have been widely misunderstood, and some comparison between the translations may help us to see more clearly.

Matthew 5 starting at verse one:

NLT – 1 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them.

KJV – 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Or NLT – 3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

The first group of people who may not feel so blessed are the poor. In this verse may indeed refer to the financially poor, but specifically we are looking at those who are down and discouraged, maybe even depressed. The financially poor often can feel this way, although those with plenty of money can find themselves in the very same boat.

The contemporary paraphrase THE MESSAGE suggests “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope”. Now that’s not a faithful translation, but it expresses the potential seriousness of the situation.

When you’re at the end of your rope, it is difficult to feel blessed.

But if you trust God, and know that you need Him, He is THERE for you. The Kindgom of Heaven is yours, even if you think you are more worthless than worthless, lower than low. Jesus says, “you are not worthless, you are priceless. God blesses you. He is with you in your pain, in your phyiscal, emotional and spiritual poverty.”

If you trust Him, and turn to Him, You are blessed.

Again, I’m not going to keep going back to this, but God is NOT asking us to be down and discouraged, or seek to be spiritually or otherwise poor in order to receive blessing. But those who are emotionally up and on top of the world, and filled with a sense of importance, tend to lose track of God more. They become dependent of themselves more, and that’s a danger. The poor in Spirit are particularly blessed because they often turn to God with a real sense of dependence and reliance. They know they need God, and sometimes many of the rest of us forget that way too often.

KJV – 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

NLT – 4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

This is a fact, a promise, a true reality. The NLT adds “God blesses” to virtually every verse in this section for a good reason. It is certainly implied by the term Blessed in the King James, but the modern translators wanted it to be crystal clear.

This is not a fortune cookie blessing, or Karma, or good fortune. This is not a cause and effect kind of thing. It’s not a goverment windfall or bank error on your behalf.

If you mourn, and almost everyone will unless they die very young, and you turn to God, He will comfort you. GOD shall and will be with you and put his arms around you and hold your hand and get your through it.

The blessing comes from God, not some random fluke, but from our Lord to those who mourn because God has been there. He has mourned too. He mourned when His chosen people rebelled. He mourned when His Son was torchered and killed. He mourns nows. He mourns for us and with us.

He says,” count on it, when your heart is broken, you can count on me to lean on.”

KJV – 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

NLT – 5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

In Jesus day, and even somewhat today, depending on where you live, the meek were not well respected. They were the lowly, the downtrodden, the long suffering, the walked all over.

That’s really no more admired in today’s society as it was back then. And for Jesus to suggest that these “meek like a mouse” people would inherit the earth would have sounded absurd.

In the movie “Wall Street” from the 1980’s, Michael Douglas’ character insisted “Greed is Good. We have to see something we want and then go take it.” For decades now self-help, new-age gurus have urges us to “go for it” and “self-actualize”.

But as wonderful as that all sounds, meek and humble is, in reality, who we are before God. He is Good. We are not. Jesus confounded people with that one. “Don’t call me Good, only God is Good” What do mean Jesus, aren’t you God. Yes I AM.

But Jesus had intentionally become the meek, and the humble, the lowly, the downtrodden, the long suffering, the walked all over, for us. In the incarnate flesh, he took on humiliation on purpose.

We are to follow in His footsteps of humilty, sometimes of purpose, but sometimes it is imposed on us. But these words tell us the truth….Don’t worry, those who walk with Christ, in His humility are blessed. Christ wins, in the end, and those who belong to Him with inherit the whole earth in His glory as well. When Christ reigns we reign with Him. The humbled come the victors.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

NLT – 6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

These folks are the seekers. Again, that’s not most of us. Most of us have reached a destination in our mind, and in our walk, and in our faith. We’ve got there…so we no longer hunger and thirst for God. We should always remain hungry and thirsty in this way……

Because when we look at righteousness and we hunger for it, thirst for it, if we desire to find right standing before God, we will find Jesus. Jesus will find us.

And those who hunger and thirst for Jesus will be filled. In Jesus they will be satisfied.

KJV -7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

NLT – 7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Jesus spoke of mercy often. He wanted people to really grasp that God alone is judge. He does not give us stones to throw. And if we throw them we had better not live in a house of glass. The one who judges has judgment heaped upon him. The one who is merciful will receive mercy.

Again, we do not honor mercy much in our world. We like the idea that people will get what’s coming to them. We like the idea that our God would act in the same way.

But honesty, our very faith depends on a God that is merciful.

We don’t have a chance if we are judged on our merits. We don’t have many merits. We don’t have a chance if we are judged on our faults. We have way too many of those..

Have you seen Schindler’s List? There is one scene in which this insane Nazi concertration camp director is getting great joy from randomly killing Jews for minor infractions. He is practicing no tolerance, no mercy, and having fun in the meantime. When someone is working to slow, he shoots them. When someone seems tired, he shoots them. When someone’s product is not perfect, he shoots them.

But for a very short time, Schindler, the reluctant savior of the film, convinces this guy to extend mercy. He tells him, “Real power comes in mercy. Having the ability and the authority to execute judgment, but choosing not to. That is real power.”

God is the biggest, most powerful being in the universe. We are all less. We do not survive without his mercy.

And God tells us blessing comes to those who pay it forward. Since God is merciful to us, how can we not show mercy to others.

KJV -8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

NLT – 8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

Some people if you’ve noticed, can’t see God in anything, while others see God in everything. Ken Magee, who is a member of our church board, calls them God-sightings.

Andhe is constantly reporting these sightings in the most amazing places.

The facts is it’s easy to get really cynical and jaded. To say…I won’t help…they will just waste it on beer. I can’t stop..too many psychos out there. I won’t give…everybody has their hand out. I can’t beleive…it’s all one big con, one big conspiracy…..

But those who are pure at heart, start with God thoughts, and God sightings and translate them into God actions.

What would Jesus Do? It’s over used. But Jesus was pure at heart. He started and ended and liveed…I will Help, Stop, Give, Beleive….and He didn’t add a bunch of stuff to it.

He didn’t survey the motives and means of the 4000 who came to hear him without bringing lunch. He fed them. Others were worried. But Jesus fed them and left in in God’s hands.

KJV – 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

NLT – 9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

Quakers love this one, of course. Friends are known for promoting peacemaking. But Jesus teaching here is widely misunderstood as a call to pacifism.

There are those who feel God calls them to pacifism. But we are faced constantly with a world filled with cruelty, injustice, oppression and abuse.

And almost always to make peace, we have to do something. We have to confront evil and stop it’s destruction.

In this case, I think the NLT does a fine job of clarifying this. ” God blesses those who work for peace.”

People who enjoy war and violence are not the Childen of God. Even if conflict is inevitible, those who follow Jesus, would not find pleasure in it.

The best thing about a war is when it ends. And God blesses those who work for peace. It’s hard, thankless work. People who profit from war-making will not like you and work against you. But speak to anyone who fights in a war, and they are looking forward to the day that victory is achieved, and the fighting stops, the killing and dying stops. No sane, God fearing person actually enjoys the pain and suffering that comes with war.

And followers of Christ are to be at the forefront of bringing this suffering to an end.

And that is the heart of what Jesus says here. It’s not just a verse against war, but about the blessings that come to any person who finds themself working to slow down the evil one in his path of violence and suffering.

Peacemaking is in our homes, in our marriages, with our children, with our communities and individual church meetings. Peacemaking starts within ourselves. Are you are peace in your own heart? Do you know someone who is not at peace? God blesses those who work for peace.

KJV – 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

NLT – 10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Again, being a follower of Christ will not make you popular. As a Christ follower you are an enemy of darkness, and those who dwell in the darkness will be threatened and come after you.

If you are a true Christian witness you will experience this in your life. If you are attacked in this life for Jesus sake, You are blessed by God. It is promise in eternity. If you live for Christ, people will know it. It will not always be easy. But be assured, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.

The last few verses ampify this last Beatitude.

NLT – 11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

That’s where we end today. But take a special note of verse 12. It sums up God’s desired response to all of these verses.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad. Be happy about it! Be very glad!

If you are poor in spirit and at the end of your rope, if you mourn, if you are meek and made humble, if you are a seeker of righteousness, if you find yourself able to extend mercy to your fellow man, If you’re heart is pure, you work for peace, and are persecuted for your faithfulness, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad.

It’s all part of a very hard, yet eternally rewarding walk with Christ. None of that is easy. But no matter where God takes you, he is with you, it is worth it and you are blessed.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.

Amen

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