Archive for the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Category

Zephaniah & the Beatitudes Call to Conversion

January 29, 2023

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Jesus’ Beatitudes are words of consolation and hope but they are also a call to conversion. Our first reading today comes from the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah who proclaimed God’s words in the land of Judah. Zephaniah denounced his people’s unfaithfulness, warning them:

“Near is the great day of the Lord,
near and very swiftly coming…
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and desolation…
A day of trumpet blasts and battle cries
against fortified cities,
against lofty battlements…
Because they have sinned against the Lord.”

Less than one lifetime after Zephaniah preached, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians and Judah’s earthly kingdom fell.

Zephaniah denounced those rich in material things, who hungered for feasts and comforts, who thirsted for wines and pleasures, who fashionably clothed themselves in unrighteousness. These proud rich would not be satisfied. Zephaniah said, “They will build houses, but not dwell in them. They will plant vineyards, but not drink their wine…. Their wealth shall be given to plunder and their houses to devastation…. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them.

However, Zephaniah’s strongest condemnations denounced the idolatry among his people. Some worshipped idols in pagan temples, while some bowed down on roofs to worship stars, and some bowed down to the one true Lord God but would swear oaths by other gods. Zephaniah notes some said in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.” They lacked faith, and hope, and love for him in their divided hearts. But with unclean hearts, they would not see God.

Today we hear Zephaniah say, “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth… seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.” Then Zephaniah announces that the Lord “will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. …They shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.”

In fulfillment of God’s word, in response to a Jewish revolt, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C. They tore down the city’s walls, systematically burned its palaces and houses, and destroyed the Jewish temple. Those Jews who had made war were either killed or deported far away to Babylon, along with everyone else their conquerors saw as a threat. Yet “they left in the land of Judah some of the poor who had nothing and at the same time gave them vineyards and farms.” Blessed were the meek, for they inherited the land.

Yet even before Judah was conquered and thousands of Jews were carried off to Babylonian exile, God promised them a future return to Jerusalem. The Lord foretells through the Prophet Zephaniah: “At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you.” Blessed would be those people who remembered to mourn the loss of God’s temple and holy city, for they would be consoled. Less than one lifetime after their departure, once that Babylonian empire had been conquered by a Persian empire, the Jews were allowed to return home.

The words of Jesus and Zephaniah and the stories of their people should give us pause today, for “near is the great day of the Lord” always. How are we using our great riches? Which desires do we feed? Do we mourn the evils that we see in the world? Unless we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will never be satisfied. We might not worship golden idols or swear by pagan gods, but idolatry still exists today. If our priorities (as reflected by our finances, Sunday sports or vacations, worldly desires or addictions, or any other things) usurp our Lord from his rightful throne in our hearts, then our hearts are not yet so pure as he wills them to be.

Seek the Lord… seek justice, seek humility… do no wrong and speak no lies.” Practice mercy and pursue peace. Christ offers you his strengthening grace. Blessed are they who heed what Jesus tells us gains his Kingdom.

Live the Beatitudes

January 29, 2023

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today I would like to share an incident about a brother priest of mine. He was transferred to a new parish. Some weeks after he arrived, he needed to take the bus to a nearby town. When he sat down, he realized that the driver had given him an extra two rupees (about 25¢). He thought to himself, “I better give it back, it would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Oh, it is only two rupees, such a small amount, it is a gift from God.” When his stop came, he hesitated at the door and handed the money back to the driver. The driver smiled and asked, “Are you the new priest in the village?” And the priest said, “Yes.” “Well, I have been thinking about going somewhere to pray. I wanted to see what you would do if I gave you extra change. You will see me at church on Sunday.” When the priest got off the bus, he closed his eyes and said, “Oh God, I almost sold you for a quarter.

In that thirty minutes on the bus, that priest lived all seven of the Beatitudes. He was poor in spirit, not greedy. Blessed are they who mourn, he gained a new parishioner. He was meek and knew that the money was not his. He was righteous and he was satisfied. By giving the money back, he will receive mercy from God. His heart was clean, and he will see God. He was a peacemaker because he did not keep, what was not his.

Today’s readings explain our Christian goal of eternal happiness. They give us an outline for living like Christ. Jesus expected his disciples to live like Him. The Beatitudes present a positive way to live. The virtues we will receive from following the Beatitudes will lead to salvation for our souls.

Jesus teaches his disciples the blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the blessed ones are those who are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, and clean of heart. They are the peacemakers and those who are willing to be insulted and persecuted for their faith.

The Beatitudes are almost like a guideline for the Ten Commandments. The Beatitudes simply guide us to a righteous and loving way of life. By living the Beatitudes, we will find happiness with God because only God can satisfy the heart. We will become better individuals and better members of our church. To be a true Christian, we give first place to God.

We need to respond to the challenges of the Beatitudes in our daily life. Millions of people are starving, persecuted, and homeless, and lead hopeless lives. The Beatitudes challenge us to be compassionate people, even when this exposes us to ridicule and persecution. We can learn from Saint Mother Teresa who showed us how to accept the challenges of living the Beatitudes in the modern world. Let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy and the sick, we share the promises of the Beatitudes.

We need to choose wisely. The way of life is the way of Jesus that leads to eternal life. The challenge of the Beatitudes is this: Are you going to be happy in the world’s way, or in Christ’s way? If we choose the world’s way, we are seeking our blessings in the wrong place. The way of Jesus requires toil and suffering in working for the poor, the sick, and the hungry. The blessing of the Beatitudes is the possession of the Kingdom of God.

Essential Conversation — Funeral Homily for Marcel Sobotta, 86

July 11, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Marcel’s family moved here to Bloomer when he was just three years old. And back then, starting out, the only language he knew was Polish. Marcel had to learn how to speak English here, partly from his friends, who reportedly taught him how to say useful words like “potato.” Consider how essential practicing this new language was for his life. How isolated would his more than eighty years of life on earth have been, if Marcel had never practiced such conversation?

About Marcel, Beverly and their children have shared many memories. Of his love for his wife and kids, grandkids and great grandkids. Of his delight in farming and gardening. Of his work ethic at the dairy and driving school bus. Of his raising the beagles and rabbits. Of his joy in fishing and hunting in God’s creation. Of his frustration with The Green Bay Packers. But the particular aspect which stood out to me most is what his family shared about Marcel’s life of prayer.

Marcel prayed at every meal time and prayed every single night. He would kneel down by his bedside and was not ashamed to let his children see it. In fact, he taught his children to do the same. They tell me he was very faithful to God. Prayer, it seems, was a constant throughout Marcel’s life. When I visited him with Beverly, just days before he died, to give him the Holy Eucharist and the anointing for the sick, he joined us in the prayers as he was able, and he was happy. Marcel had learned and practiced the language of prayer.

Prayer is simply a conversation with our friends in heaven. Prayer is how we talk to God. And through the important practice of prayer, a Christian becomes more and more conformed to Christ and shares in his blessedness. The Christian who prays recognizes their poverty in spirit, that they need God. The Christian who prays will mourn the evils of this world, for Jesus will share with them his heart, and there is much to mourn. The Christian who prays meekly asks the Lord to intervene with his wise solutions, for “man’s wrath does not accomplish the righteousness of God” and “his ways are above our ways.” The Christian who prays increasingly hungers and thirsts for righteousness, within themselves and others, for Christ calls us all to be holy saints. The Christian who prays grows merciful, because they know they have received great mercy. The Christian who prays is clean of heart, desiring one thing, God, above all. And the Christian who prays is a peacemaker, nurturing peace within themselves and for all around them.

Connected to Christ in daily prayer, we no longer live an isolated human life, cut off from deeper meaning and purpose, settling for small potatoes. Our Lord has a purpose for you and has prepared a feast for you. Jesus says in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him and dine with him and he with me.” Behold, he stands at your door and knocks. He knocks at the door of your soul, and prayer is how you open the door to him. Blessed is he who opens that door, for consolation, the Kingdom, and the vision of God await. May we learn this valuable lesson from Marcel’s lived example.

Our Shared Roots — Funeral Homily for Maxine Zwiefelhofer, 90

November 12, 2021

In her first ninety years of life, Maxine has been a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother; an aunt, a grandma, a great grandma, and a great-great grandma; a talented nurse, a good friend, and a devoted Catholic. Among her many traits and experiences, on this day of her funeral I would like to highlight one hobby of hers which has been a blessing to our community and a point of pride for her family.

Maxine has been a hobbyist in history. She wrote “The History of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church” in Cooks Valley, which detailed more than one hundred years of this parish from 1885 to 1995. Maxine spent many days researching genealogy at the Chippewa County Historical Society, and even traveled with family to Scandinavia and Denmark to explore their ancestral roots. She wrote books of family history, recounting the lineages of the Toppers, the Olsons, the Zwiefelhofers, and the Bleskaceks.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: the U.S. Census Bureau says there are more than 150,000 different last names in our country today, with some 5,000 last names in common use. Have you ever noticed, that with the whole forest of humanity to choose from, most people prefer to research those family trees which have branches which reach themselves? For instance, Topper was the family name of Maxine’s father, Ernest; Olson was the maiden name of her mother, Elizabeth; and Zwiefelhofer was the last name of her husband, David. Here’s another statistic: there are more than 20,000 Catholic churches in America. Of all the churches in all the towns in all the land, why did she write a history about this one?

You know the answer. Maxine explored the genealogies of those particular families and recounted the history of this particular parish because she belonged to them and they belonged to her. Our past provides us with our identity. If we were to lose all of our memories but could still think and walk and talk, we would wonder about who we are. Our family and community, our origins and past, inform us about who we are. As Christians we know our family, community, origins, and past are more than merely natural.

Who was Jesus describing in the gospel we just heard? Who is merciful and meek? Who are peacemakers, clean of heart? Who hungers and thirsts for righteousness and unjustly suffers for what is right? Who do these Beatitudes refer to? The Beatitudes describe the blessed saints, but first and foremost they describe Jesus Christ himself. You and I as Christians you are their siblings, brothers and sisters within the family, the community, the communion, of God’s Church. Our origin is that we were created by God in love. That is your origin. Our past is that Jesus Christ came and died and rose for us. That is your past. And rooted in this true identity, our future is full of hope.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans declares “that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death,” and if “we have died with Christ… we shall also live with him.” As foretold through the Prophet Daniel, one day, “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,” some to everlasting disgrace and others to eternal life. Then “the wise shall shine brightly… and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.

Let us pray today for Maxine’s soul and renew our true identity in Jesus Christ, so that she and we with him may be one holy family, one holy Church dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

A Blessed Reflection — Funeral Homily for Robert “Bob” Seibel, 91

June 22, 2021

The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch.

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
  and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.”

Jesus climbs up the mountain. He is above and higher than them all. They all look up to him. He invites them to draw closer. And his disciples come closer to Jesus himself. He then begins to preach to them his Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the Beatitudes. Who is bless-ed? Who is blessed? Jesus gives us a description. The blessed one is poor in spirit, is meek and mourns, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is merciful, pure of heart, a peacemaker, and yet persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

When we hear these Beatitudes we usually think of them as traits we Christians are called to embody, and that’s true. We are called, for instance, to rely on God to fill our humble spirits, to mourn the sin and evil present in this world, to pursue peace and all that is righteous. And the fruit of these attitudes to be is blessedness, holiness, true happiness. Our Christian lives should reflect these blessed traits, but these traits are reflected–first and best–in Jesus Christ himself. Jesus’ Beatitudes are autobiographical. He is above and higher than us all and we rightly look up to him. But Jesus wonderfully calls us higher, to draw nearer to him, for Christians to come closer to Christ. A faithful Christian’s life will come to reflect the person of Jesus Christ.

Robert F. SeibelBeatrice, Bob’s wife of sixty-six years, and his children have shared with me many stories about him. For instance, they told me of his precious Catholic faith in Jesus Christ. It was so important to Bob that he sacrificed for all eight of his children to be taught eight years each at St. Paul’s Catholic School. More recently, during the Covid pandemic and his infirmity, he would worship by watching the Holy Mass on TV, and delighted to have Jesus brought to his home in the Holy Eucharist. Through the years, at Bob’s supper table, where everyone had his or her own special spot, Bob would pray before meals, a devotion he always kept to the end of his life.

His family told me of Bob’s incredible work ethic, of his belief in everything being done right, and how he passed this on through his example. They recall how, amidst his hard labors, he might lay down on the floor for a ten-minute midday nap, rise again, and get back to work. Yet he always had time for his loved ones. Very approachable, Bob would talk to anyone about anything. After years of dairy farming, he moved on to gardening in retirement. From his full garden he generously shared, giving food to family and friends, the local food pantry, and whoever drove by. His gifted food went far and wide.

As I said, a faithful Christian’s life will reflect the person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ earthly life God came first. Christ seeks to teach us all about God his Father and our saving Faith. Jesus comes far down from heaven to our earthly home to be with us, through his Incarnation and his Church. The Lord gathers his family around his holy table at every Mass to pray to our Father and to feast together. He spreads the table before us, our cup overflows. And someday, if we heed his call, he will have a special spot for each of us around his table in heaven.

Jesus believes in the importance of righteousness, that right be done, and in passing this truth and example on to us. Jesus labored hard on earth, his body laid down briefly in the tomb, but then he rose again, renewed. He lives and still labors now. Yet Jesus always has time for us. He is very approachable, happy to converse with you about anything in prayer. And Jesus Christ, who made the world’s first garden for Adam and Eve and was mistaken for a gardener on Easter Sunday morning, desires to feed you and the whole world far and wide, by generously sharing himself in the gift of his Holy Eucharist.

What do you love and admire about Robert Seibel? Realize that everything which is loveable and admirable in him, is a reflection of these blessed traits’ source. A faithful Christian’s life reflects the person of Jesus Christ. Today, let us pray for Bob’s soul, that he be purified of any flaw, and renew our own faithful Christian devotion and love for Jesus Christ, so that one day we may all be called and gathered together again with God upon his holy mountain.

Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride — The John and Megan Salm Wedding

February 13, 2021

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to Him. Jesus began to teach them, and his first teachings in this Sermon on the Mount were the Beatitudes we just heard. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. What do these things mean? How can we best understand them? Who best models these blessed paths for us to follow? Realize that Jesus’ Beatitudes are autobiographical. These Beatitudes describe Jesus himself.

Jesus is poor in spirit, relying upon his Father-God, and personally connecting with him every day through prayer. Jesus mourns because he loves and cares about us, our brokenness, our pains, our sorrows. Jesus is meek, not coming as a warrior on a warhorse imposing his will by force, but rather–for instance–entering Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, inviting the world and all people to freely accept his Kingdom and himself. Jesus is merciful, he forgives us because he loves us. Jesus is pure of heart, he loves with pure motives and true devotion. Jesus is the peacemaker whose peace is true peace. More than bread alone, Jesus hungers and thirsts for righteousness. And because of this, he is persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and blesses many through his self-sacrifice.

Jesus went up the mountain and his disciples came to him. There are many crowds in this world, but Jesus’ disciples, his Church, they come to him. And Jesus teaches us to imitate his own example. The saints give us excellent examples of how to be Christlike. As St. Paul tells the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Get to know saints, those alive on earth and those alive in Heaven, and you’ll become holier, growing ever closer to the best version of yourself through their friendship. John and Megan, be saintly friends for each other to help each other, and your children, be saints. And meditate upon the relationship of Christ and his Church to guide you in your marriage.

Recall that Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom and his Church is called his Bride. Now every Christian is called to imitate Jesus Christ, and every Christian soul is spiritually his Bride. But just like the Holy Eucharist we celebrate today is not just a symbol or a memory of Jesus but his Real Presence among us, so the Christian Sacrament of Marriage you are about to enter makes present the mystical marriage of Jesus Christ and his Church between you and within you. John, love your wife, even as Christ loved the church, handing himself over for her, to bless and sanctify her. Megan, love and follow your husband, becoming fruitful and holier together with him.

Pray as a couple, with your kids, and individually on your own, stay close to the Lord’s Sacraments in his Church, relying on God to enrich your spirits, personally connecting with God every day. Have compassion for each other, mourning each others’ trials and consoling each other through them. Be meek toward each other, leading or following as is proper, but always inviting rather than imposing. Be merciful, forgiving each others’ faults in love. Be pure of heart, devoted to each other with pure motives. Be peacemakers, not merely content with an absence of conflict, but cultivating true harmony together. And be not content with just the pursuit of daily bread but hunger and thirst for righteousness, and be willing to suffer for righteousness, that your lives may be a blessing to many.

John and Megan, we are happy for you, we are excited for you, and we anticipate great things from the two of you together. May our Lord Jesus Christ, who has begun his good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.

3 Mountains / 3 Montañas — 2nd Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 20, 2011
In the life of Jesus, he climbs three significant mountains; The mountain of the sermon on the mount, the mountain of Transfiguration (in today’s reading) and the mountain of the crucifixion. In the Christian life, we must also visit these three mountains. 
The three mountains are united. The wisdom of the sermon on the mount, on the first mountain, brings the pleasures and pains of the other mountains. The life of the Gospel brings the joys of the light and the suffering of the cross. Wisdom, glory and sacrifice; the three are a trio here on this earth. Our glories without sacrifice pass quickly. Our sacrifices without wisdom we regret quickly. And our wisdom will be without glory forever if we do not follow Christ in sacrifice. Which mountain should visit more this season of Lent?
Do you lack wisdom? Do you not know well that Jesus and his Church teaches? Go to the first mountain to learn, like the disciples at the Sermon on the Mount, with the Bible, or the Catechism or many popular resources available in audio or visual forms.
Do you need consolation? Do you not feel well that Jesus is your beloved friend? Go to the second mountain, to feel like Jesus and his disciples at the Transfiguration, through time in a quiet place with God.
Do you need perfection in your love? Do you not carry the cross well? Go to the last mountain to practice it, like Jesus at the crucifixion, through good works for others.
Jesus climbed the mountains of wisdom, glory and sacrifice. To be with him, we must climb these also.

En la vida de Jesús, él sube tres montañas notables. La montaña del sermón del monte, la montaña de la transfiguración (en la lectura de hoy) y la montaña de la crucifixión. En la vida cristiana, debemos visitar estas tres montañas también.

Las tres montañas están unidas. La sabiduría del sermón del monte, de la primera montaña, trae los placeres y dolores de las otras montañas. La vida del Evangelio trae las alegrías de la luz y los sufrimientos de la cruz.  Sabiduría, gloria y sacrificio; los tres son un trío unido en esta tierra.

Nuestras glorias sin sacrificio pasan rápidamente. Nuestros sacrificios sin sabiduría lamentamos rápidamente. Y nuestra sabiduría será sin gloria para siempre si no nos siga a Cristo en sacrificio. ¿Qué montaña deben visitar más esta temporada de Cuaresma?

¿Faltas de sabiduría? ¿No sabes bien lo que Jesús y su Iglesia enseñan? Vaya a la primera montaña para aprender como los discípulos al sermón del monte, con la Biblia, o el catecismo o muchos recursos populares disponibles en formularios visuales o de audio.

¿Necesitas consuelo? ¿No te sientes bien que Jesús es tu amigo amado? Vaya a la segunda montaña para sentirlo como Jesús y sus discípulos a la transfiguración, con tiempo con Dios en un lugar tranquilo.

¿Necesitas perfección en tu amor? ¿No llevas bien la cruz? Vaya a la última montaña para practicarlo como Jesús a la crucifixión, con buenas obras para otros.

Jesús subió las montañas de sabiduría, de gloria y de sacrificio. Para estar con él, debemos subir estas también.

Be Not Afraid — 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 28, 2011

This morning, I would like to recall events from the life of a great man. When he is eight years old his mother dies. When he is twelve years old, his older brother (a physician) also dies, having contracted scarlet fever from a patient. At nineteen years old, the Nazis invade his homeland and inflict much suffering on those he loves. With his father’s death, he becomes the last survivor of his immediate family, at only twenty years of age. After five years of war and occupation, the Nazis are driven out, but the Soviet communists replace them. They will later try to murder him, but they will (just barely) not succeed. At age seventy-three, he is diagnosed with an incurable disease that will slowly weaken him and kill him, and eleven difficult years later, he dies.

These are events from the life of a great man, a man the Church will declare “blessed” this May 1st. He is Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II. Throughout his papacy, over and over again, he repeated this message: “Do not be afraid.” He is well-known for saying this, but these words were not originally his. They come from another man, also a man of suffering—accustomed to infirmity, who knew both poverty and exile, one who experienced the deaths of loved ones, a man who was also targeted for death himself. This man is Jesus Christ, who first said, “Do not be afraid. Be not afraid.” In fact, in the Gospels, Jesus says this more than just about anything else.

I recall the trials of John Paul the Great and the sufferings of Jesus Christ lest anyone think their words come from naivety about life and the world, or that their Gospel is not grounded in reality. Jesus knows what he is talking about when teaches us, when He commands us, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. …Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Jesus never denies that evils exist in this world, but tells us that none of them should make us fear. This is why the Church asks God the Father at every Mass, “Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day, in your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety….” We really mean it when we pray this, that we may be free from all anxiety. Christians should care about many things, but not one of these things should make us anxious.

Of what should we be afraid? Poverty? Jesus lived it. Suffering? He experienced that, too. Sin? Jesus has conquered it, and He offers us restoration. Death? Jesus has defeated it, and He promises us resurrection. With Jesus Christ, we can have the peace that, in the end, everything will be ok. Yet, many people feel crushed by their worries, about matters large and small. How are we to overcome these anxieties and experience the peace Christ wants for our lives? We conquer anxiety with these two things: prayer, and confidence in God’s love for us.

As Saint Paul wrote the Philippians, “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Jesus will never forsake us, and He will never forget us. Even if a mother should forget her infant, or be without tenderness for the child of her womb, Jesus will never forget you. So, “Do not be afraid.” The next time you feel worry, the fruit of fear, remove it from your mind and place it on an altar before the Lord. Make a sacrifice of it, a burnt-offering before God, and say, “Jesus, I trust in you. I’ll show up and do my part, but I’m relying on you to take care of this. I sacrifice my fears to you.” It is a high compliment to Him when we trust in Him to be our God, and opens us up to receive His peace.

Always be confident in Jesus Christ’s love for you. The next time you feel worry coming on, this is your cue to pray. Do not be afraid. With Jesus Christ, we can have the peace that everything will be ok.

Set To Heaven — 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 13, 2011

This morning, consider this important question: Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? In this life, we can live like either thermometers or thermostats. A thermometer (as you know) accepts whatever temperature, hot or cold, that happens to surround it. A thermometer acts passively to the world’s influence. A thermostat, on the other hand, does not submit to the world around it. A thermostat is set to an ideal temperature and strives to attaint its goal.  As Christians, we should be as thermostats, and we should all be set on Heaven.

Do you think about Heaven much? Do you ever meditate on what it will be like? I think many of us get so drawn in by the here and now that we fail to give Heaven much thought. Yet, I think we would all be strengthened by meditating on it more; on what it promises and what it requires.

The next life is a mystery about which we can know a great deal. As Saint Paul says, “What God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” For example, we know that there will be no suffering or death in Heaven. The Book of Revelation says God ‘will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order (the way of this world) will have passed away.’

There shall also be no hatred in Heaven. No one with hatred in his or her heart will be able to enter. The Book of Wisdom teaches that God hates none of the persons he has made. He does not always like all the things that they do, but it is His love for each one that continues to hold them in being, and will hold them in existence forever. In order to see God in Heaven, we must become like Him. This is why Jesus forbids not only murder, but hatred in the heart as well. Consider how wonderful it will be to live in Heaven at peace with everyone.

After the resurrection, when our dead bodies are reconstructed from the dust, those who are just will be remade, stronger, handsomer, more incredibly beautiful, than they have ever looked before. Will their perfect bodies have any flaws? If glorified bodies do have “flaws,” they shall be as the wounds that remain in Jesus’ hands and side, beautiful and glorious forever. In this life, the beauty of one’s soul has little relationship to the beauty of one’s flesh; but in Heaven, the holiness of the saints shines out for all to see. 

In Heaven, in this midst of this overwhelming beauty, no one shall lust and none shall exploit another. Lust and exploitation go hand in hand. There is a good reason for the expression “to lust for power,” for lust is about manipulating another for one’s pleasure. Instead of lust, everyone in Heaven shall desire the true good of one another from their hearts.

In this life, temptations will come whether we want them or not, but remember that temptations in themselves are not sins—it is only when we say “yes” to temptation, when we choose to sin as temptations suggest, that we can be guilty of a sin such as lust. Until we can refuse temptation’s invitations, until all lust is driven from our hearts, we are not yet ready for Heaven. This is why Jesus teaches not only against adultery, but against lust in the heart as well. How wonderful it will be to full of love for all, purely, from our hearts, and to receive that same overflowing love in return.

Our lives on earth we are full of questions. But in Heaven, every question which has answer will be answered for us. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a [cloudy] mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” Heaven is a place of transparent truth. There, the barriers to communication disappear. In Heaven, we shall know others fully, and be fully known ourselves. No lies nor concealments are possible there, “for there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.” Until we are free of lies, until we are people whose ‘Yes’ means ‘Yes,’ and whose ‘No’ mean ‘No,’ we are not yet ready to live in Heaven.

If we die in God’s grace and friendship, we may still have some attachments to sin, and be unprepared for Heaven. But, thanks be to God, there is Purgatory, to clean us up and make us perfect, so that we may enter the Father’s house and join the feast of Heaven. Though there is Purgatory, we must always aim for Heaven. If you shoot a bow and arrow and aim carefully for the bull’s-eye, you will probably miss but still hit the target. If you shoot only aiming at the target in general, you will probably miss and hit the ground. So aim for Heaven, lest any of us miss entirely.

Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So let us not default to world’s standards. Do not be a thermometer. Set your thermostat to the perfection of Heaven. Meditate on it and strive for it, and you will experience the joys and blessings of Heaven beginning in this life.

The Beatitudes Incarnate — 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

January 30, 2011

If you want to know what the beatitudes mean, look at Jesus Christ. And if you want a window into Christ, consider the beatitudes. Let us consider how Jesus embodies the beatitudes and choose to imitate Him.

Jesus is poor in spirit. Sometimes we get can proud and adore ourselves as if we were complete and self-sufficient. But Jesus, even though He was divine, never worshiped Himself. Jesus prayed every day. He depended on His Father, like a humble child, because He was poor in spirit. Do we pray every day like Him?

Jesus is a person who mourns. But what does He mourn? He mourns the sins of others and how badly lost they are. His lament is for many when He says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!” Another time, He said through tears, “If… you only knew what makes for peace…” Do we know people who are far from God? When we mourn and pray for people far from God, our hearts are like the heart of Jesus.

Jesus is meek. He says so Himself, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” As Zechariah prophesized about Him, Jesus did not enter to Jerusalem on a war horse or chariot, but meekly, on a donkey. Jesus doesn’t carry a sword, but a cross-shaped yoke. He comes not as the destroyer of nations, but as the planter of a harvest. In this way, Jesus conquered the world. Why do we think that own petty battles over matters of pride even need to be fought?

Jesus hungers and thirsts for what is right. He feels it from his gut when He says, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” When we see what is objectively wrong we should feel a hunger to fix it, and this hunger for righteousness should move us to action, to pray or petition, to volunteer or vote, to donate or give our witness to the truth. What wrongs do you hunger and thirst and work to have changed?

Jesus is merciful and He seeks to make peace. Jesus, as men were murdering Him in a crime that cried out for justice, pleaded to Heaven for mercy, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Jesus says that if we show mercy, we will be shown mercy. Only if we are peacemakers, we will know peace. Do we pray for those who hate us or are not at peace with us?

Jesus is clean of heart. This means more than just being chaste. He is clean of heart because His heart is full of goodness. Jesus teaches that “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil.” What impurities need to be scrubbed out from our hearts before we shall see God face to face?

Jesus was persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and He tells us our reward will be great if others insult us and persecute us and utter evils against us falsely because of Him. Has this ever happened to us? If not, why not? Are we too timid in bearing witness to Christ before others.

Living the beatitudes conforms us to Jesus Christ. My hope is that you will take even one thing from this homily and put it into practice in your life, for those who practice Christ’s beatitudes are promised to share His rewards.