Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time A 2011

One of my pet peeves is attending funerals where the beatitudes, today’s Gospel are read.  I have sat through my fair share of funeral homilies similar to: “blessed are they who morn, for they will be comforted.  So and so lost their son or husband and they know what it means to morn.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  Every day the deceased lovingly fed their children and husband.  Blessed are those who are merciful.  So and so loved his children and forgave them when they disobeyed.”  While these facts may be true, while the deceased is often an exceptional person, I find it difficult to reduce the beatitudes to feeding children or forgiving a spouse.  Even the pagans do that.  Jesus is talking about something more than just small good things we should do.

Jesus is not miss manners.  Jesus is not giving us a list of nice things; instead, Jesus is directly challenging our whole conception of the world.  Blessed are you when others insult you and persecute you all because of Jesus.  Blessed are you if you show mercy to those who hate your guts.  Blessed are you who proclaim peace all while being threatened with violence.  Blessed are you imprisoned, or tortured for my sake.  Jesus is saying blessed are you if your guts are being ripped out and not blessed are you if you cook your chicken casserole at 375 degrees.

Am I saying this because I believe I live the beatitudes?  Heavens no!  I say this because I believe the beatitudes mean more than we want to admit.  One of the most important Protestant theologians of the last century was Karl Barth who said that those who authentically preach God’s word recognize how far they fall short.  Dietrich Bonheoffer spoke against cheap grace.  Here was a man imprisoned by Hitler and eventually was executed.  Grace is costly because it implies sacrifice.  If not our own sacrifice, at least the sacrifice that Jesus made by dying for us.

We gather today asking God to shame our own wisdom.  We can deceive ourselves into believing that we fulfill the beatitudes.  All the stuff that we believe counts as fulfillment of the beatitudes is still little league stuff.  Jesus invites us to the major leagues.  May the Eucharist allow us to respond to his invitation.

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