2015-11-01, Solemnity of All Saints, “Blessed”

Homily 11-01-15
Solemnity of All Saints, Cycle B
Rev 7:2-4,9-14; Ps 24:1bc-6; 1Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12a

 (Scriptures included after homily)

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If we just heard this passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount for the first time, we might be asking ourselves, “Why would we ever want to be blessed, if we have to be poor, sorrowful and humble?”  None of us wants to be poor.  We want to be rich . . .  None of us wants a life of mourning.  We want joy and happiness in our lives . . .  And we surely don’t want to be meek.  We want to be acknowledged.  We want to be recognized; maybe even famous for what we’ve done in our lives . . .”

You see, if that’s what we were thinking when we heard those Beatitudes, then we are not alone.  We are actually in the majority of the 7.4-billion people on our planet who want the same things.

And the truth of the matter is, that unless we’re living on less than $1.00 a day, like more than a billion of those people, then we – most likely, ARE Rich.

And IF we are eating more than one meal a week, then we are much more fortunate than that child who will die from hunger within the next 15-seconds, somewhere in the world.

And IF our names are written in the Parish Directory or even in the phone book, then we are much more famous than the nameless orphans whose parents were murdered in oppressed or war-torn countries, like Syria, Somalia or North Korea.

You see, we may not even realize
how Blessed we are.

How very, very Blessed we are!!!

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And by now you might be thinking, “OK, Deacon Joe what’s this all about?  Where is all this headed?  Is it time for our yearly tithing statements again?  It’s not our fault that we were born in the most prosperous nation in the world.  It’s not our fault that the cost of living is so high.  And you know, we still have our own needs and wants.”

And Deacon Joe would answer, that it actually, is tithing time again, but that’s not what this is all about.  You see, there are two things we know for sure about this earthly existence of ours.  We know that we cannot take any of this material life with us when we die.  And we know, for certain, that death is a guaranteed fate for every one of us!

And if we look a little closer at where we are headed in this life, we might notice how we tend to work so hard to save for those college educations.  We might notice how much we sacrifice to save for that big retirement, some day in the far-distant future.  And then we might wonder, “Is that really the extent of our  personal, long-range vision?”

Jesus is telling us today, that it shouldn’t be.  Because beyond our death, here on good ole’ planet earth, there really IS more.

There IS –
an ETERNAL Life.

And in our lives, here and now, we have a choice, just like Adam and Eve did.  We have a choice to live that Eternal Life in peace and love, or to live it in suffering and strife.  It truly IS – our choice!  And I think most of us would agree  that – the peace and love choice sounds a whole lot better than the other option.

So what do we have to DO
in order to make that choice?

Well, we begin by spending a little time studying Jesus’ teachings.  And in particular, we look to these eight Beatitudes as a promise of Hope.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls them “the paradoxical promises that sustain Hope in the midst of tribulations.”  CCC 1717

We might think of them as a recipe for Eternal Life in heaven.  We might think of them as the job description for a Saint.  Or we might even use the blessings of the Beatitudes like bank deposits for our heavenly retirement.  Except, that unlike monetary savings that are locked away from being used, we can enjoy the benefits of the Beatitudes at the same time that they’re being saved for the future.

Jesus tells us that it all begins with one simple act: “Love the Lord your God with  all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; . . . and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mt 22:37-39

By forming ourselves to be – in Love with God, and with our neighbor, these Beatitudes will become second nature to us.  We will see, shortly, how each Beatitude builds upon the one that preceded it; with Spiritual Poverty as the foundation for them all.  And with a little practice, they will become a part of the normal routine of our daily lives . . .

We will be – The Blessed Poor in Spirit, when we recognize our own poverty and our need to depend on God for strength, guidance and mercy; above all of our gadgets, above all of our false securities, and especially, above our independent self-reliance.  And in that poverty of dependence we will discover a Kingdom, called Heaven.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And in our Poverty, we will be – The Blessed who Mourn, when our hearts are shattered in grief for the great suffering of our world and for our own sinfulness, and God will be our comfort.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

And in our Mournful Poverty, we will be – The Blessed Meek, because when we are so humbled by life’s challenges that we finally allow God to control our: passions and our impulses, our anger, and our instinct to repay injustice with injustice, then we will find the serenity, even in difficult circumstances, that only God can offer; like a land of overwhelming beauty emerging from a treacherous sea.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

And in our Humble and Mournful Poverty, we will be – The Blessed who seek what is Right – with all our hearts and with all our minds, when we have the courage to stand up for what is right, even at the cost of friendships that persist in tempting us to do wrong.  And in our righteousness, we will be more than satisfied.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

And in our Righteous, Humble and Mournful Poverty, we will be – the Blessed who show Mercy, not just by our forgiveness of others, but by deeply knowing the very Heart and Soul of our adversaries, and by seeing Life from their perspective, thinking their thoughts and feeling their feelings.  And mercy will be ours, as well.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

And in our Merciful, Righteous, Humble and Mournful Poverty, we will be – The Blessed with Pure and Clean Hearts, who live our lives with No guilt and No shame for any of our thoughts or actions.  And like the opening of a dusty, dirty, frosted window, the full beauty of our God will be revealed to us.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

And in our Pure and Merciful, Righteous, Humble and Mournful Poverty, we will be – The Blessed Peacemakers, who through our Merciful Understanding of others, can mend relationships and build communities, as “Children of God,” in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

IF, by the grace of God, and with total faith in Jesus, we can achieve these
7-Blessings of Character: PovertyMournful CompassionHumilityRighteousnessMercyPurity  and  Peacemaking, then the Holy Spirit will give us the strength to receive that final Blessing of Persecution because we ARE Catholic Christians, living as Jesus taught us.  And because Jesus has done
no less for us.

When we can stand up to those Persecutions – from Insult to Martyrdom, then we are, without a doubt, Living in the Kingdom of Heaven – right here and now . . . just as Jesus promised!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

You see, the Saints did it,
and so can we!

All it takes is a little faith and our total surrender to God.

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And who are these saints? 

They’re just regular people like you and me …  People who, at some point in their lives discovered their Creator – their God.  They discovered a God, who Loves them no matter what situation they’re in, or what sin they’d committed in the past.

Then they took that insight and devoted some portion of their lives to sharing that Love with other people.  Some did this through fervent prayer; others through encouraging and enlightening writings; some shared that Love through song or by helping the poor; some built churches and communities and schools; and some of those saints simply shared that Love with their families.

But none were perfect.  They were all just normal people, like us; people who surrendered a little piece of their lives, their talents, and their treasures to build a Kingdom – a Kingdom FOR God and for US.

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And what is this Kingdom
that we so intensely seek and long for?

St. John tells us about God’s Kingdom in the book of Revelation.

He says … there will be Singing.  It will be the greatest Celebration, the greatest Party we ever attended.

There will be a Banquet.  The most lavish banquet we could ever imagine.

There will be Community.  The most beautiful and loving people we’ve ever met.

There will be No more Hunger and No more Thirst.  St. John says, We will drink from the river of life-giving water.  Rev 22

There will be No more Pain and No more Suffering.

No more Darkness, for the Lord Jesus will be our Light.

And best of all, there will be God.

And we will live in perfect unity with God, just as he created us to Live, from the very beginning of time.

Today, at this table, as God’s saints on earth, we pray in Communion with ALL the Saints in Heaven, and we Rejoice at, how very, very Blessed we ARE!

jmp 11-01-15

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Scripture Readings for the Mass of 11-01-15
Solemnity of All Saints, B

First Reading:  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. 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.
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.
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.

Second Reading:  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.

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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