"The spinal cord of the Beatitudes is Love"
Sunday Homily for February 3, 2008
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (4A)
By Father James Gilhooley
Sunday Readings - Matthew 5:1-12
Some years ago New York magazine listed outstanding New Yorkers. There was but one Catholic mentioned. She was Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker. For fifty years, she practiced the Beatitudes daily in her House of Hospitality in New York City. She fed, clothed, and housed the poor. She practiced the Beatitudes so well that secular editors saluted her. She was our "tainted nature's solitary boast." Why were there not more Catholic New Yorkers on the list? There are a million in New York City.
A woman came to Jesus saying, "I can give you nothing but myself." Christ replied, "Then you have given me everything."
The Beatitudes are the owner's manual Jesus gave to each of us at Baptism. Note the Beatitudes refer to the world we live in and not the life hereafter. No people had to take a dictionary with them when they went to hear the Beatitudes. (Elijah Brown)
The Gospel opens in Galilee in northern Palestine. Were Jesus to return to the province, He would find it unchanged. Its terrain would bring happy memories to Him. This area gave Him the colorful title - the Eternal Galilean.
For twenty centuries, Christ followers have struggled to practice the Beatitudes. Some have achieved splendidly the goals of Christ. The majority of us have not done well. But nothing beats a try but a failure. (Unknown)
Those who would climb to loft heights must go by steps, not leaps. (Unknown)
We can take consolation from TS Eliot, "For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
The Beatitudes outlined in today's Gospel were portions of a longer talk of Jesus. The whole talk is called the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are called the Charter of Christianity and the Magna Carta for humanity.
If you journey to Israel, you find guides working on the principle that paying customers should be kept happy. They will point out to you the mountain where the Beatitudes were first spoken to a spellbound crowd. But scholars do not know the precise spot.
Jesus spoke these famous words in the second year of His public ministry. So perhaps we talk about 28 AD. The eight Beatitudes are considered many slices of one brilliant emerald. There is little to distinguish them one from the other. The Nazarene could have added or subtracted one and still the total message would be the same. No one would have been wiser.
The Beatitudes were given not to increase our knowledge but change our lives. (DL Moody)
James Lowell wished Christ had added, "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused. Blessed are they who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it."
Nor would Jesus pull your leg by claiming He was the first to enunciate these principles. Cicero, who died in 43 BC, penned, "There is nothing that makes a man more like God than mercy."
The spinal cord of the Beatitudes is love. This is our love of God as well as belief in His love for us. But also it includes love of neighbor. Important too in this formula is love of one's self. It is difficult and perhaps impossible to love others if we dislike ourself..
The God of the Old Testament required of his people justice. That is the same justice commanded of us by tax collectors. (Andrew Greely)
With the Beatitudes, the modus operandi has evolved to a new level. God through His Son asks us for love. We are asked to help the other fellows even though they don't deserve it. We are invited to be generous with money even though we have mortgage payments. From what we get, we make a living. From what we give we make a life. (Arthur Ashe)
God the Father said, "Thou shalt not do evil." His Son says, "Thou shalt do good." The former is the Silver Rule. The latter the Golden Rule.
Why was Dorothy Day a saint? She was cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when difficult to be patient, pushed on when she wanted to stand still, kept silent when she wanted to talk, and stayed agreeable when she wanted to be disagreeable. It was quite simple and always will be. (Unknown)
To paraphrase GK Chesterton, one cannot argue that the Beatitudes have been tried and found wanting. Rather, they have been found hard and not tried.
If you need courage to practice the Beatitudes, think of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's words: "We are fools for Christ's sake...We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. Jesus is greater than our greatest problem."