Sunday, November 1, 2015

Intimidated? (The Beatitudes) (All Saints Day, 2015-11-01)

SUNDAY 1 November 2015

• Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14  • Psalm  24 • 1 John 3:1-3 
• Matthew 5:1-12a •

Bibliographic reference:
Salvifici Doloris(On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), John Paul II,
11 February 1984.

[__01__]     At times, we feel intimidated, fearful.

Pope John Paul II observed in a letter on the topic of suffering – and redemption – that Jesus was known for his rounds, his visits, his conversations and attention to the sick, to the intimidated, the marginalized, the afflicted, the hungry.

He also visited the jubilant and the thirsty, creating the wine of Cana for the couple and their party. (John 2:1-11)
Three times, he raised the dead to life.

We read today from the Beatitudes, a Gospel reading  also addressed to those who are suffering, addressed to us in our crises and difficulties (“sufrimientos”).

We long for the Kingdom of Heaven, we pray for a great reward. 

Jesus is encouraging us not to overlook or escape our suffering for:

 [__blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you… ___]


[___blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness___]

These blessings can lead us to closer to  God.  But, isn’t it easy to turn away from these because we can feel fearful. It is intimidating.

John Paul II wrote this about the auto-reply and the instinct that results from suffering.  These are our NATURAL auto-replies and LOGICAL instincts:

·       First, compassion – if we see someone suffering, we usually are called to help. We try to help.
·       Second, RESPECT.  If we see someone suffering, we may admire his or perseverance. Or, due to the suffering, we may have to respect a boundary.
·       Third, MYSTERY & “intimidation”. Suffering can intimidate us … scare us…  and invites us to faith and belief in God’s love. (Salvifici Doloris, John  Paul II, n. 4)

[*** P A U S E ***]

[__02__]      Sometimes, we can feel intimidated by another person in our lives. Perhaps, there has been an argument, a misunderstanding, a history of conflict.  This could be with a neighbor or a family member, a brother or sister, a parent, a spouse, or the relative of one’s spouse.

There could be intimidation … there could be bad blood. When we feel overwhelmed, we may go on the offensive or the defensive.

This happens even among the nearest followers of Jesus and among the most elevated (exalted) scholars of Jerusalem.

The followers and disciples of Jesus try to intimidate each other with argumentation of “who is the greatest?” (Mark 9:34, Luke 22:24)

And, in the parable of the highly educated  Pharisee and the publican/tax collector, we read that the Pharisee tries to outperform humble tax collector in the next seat. We read that “Pharisee prayed [in this way] ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.’” (Luke 18:11)

These attitudes create division. But we are God’s children and family and we are called to seek unity, harmony, both in our worship and our service.
This invites us, for example, to pray and to fast.

This fasting / sacrifice is  not  only a Lenten/Good  Friday observance but also a spiritual practice.  In this fasting, we recognize that our communion and community is built on Christ’s sacrifice for  us.

The Pharisee also spoke about fasting …saying he fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12) … but did he live the Gospel-Beatitude? Did he believe that:

 [___blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied___]

We live the Beatitudes, when we choose to ask questions, even if we know the answer, when we return a blessing rather than an insult to the other person.

[___blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God ___]

[*** P A U S E ***]

[__03__]    How can I “intimidate” or “push around” another person? In a subtle – or not so subtle way – I can do  this by refusing to speak after I am insulted or rejected.

The cold shoulder.

Perhaps, I am in the right.

Rather than intimidate, can we not also imitate God’s generosity. Can we not imitate the Gospel vineyard owner by whom the day’s wage is paid even to those who seem undeserving. He pays the same to those who clocked in early and late. (Matthew 20:15) Do I measure others and decide what they deserve?

Can I also not admit that I am a sinner in need of God’s grace?

Going to confession, in particular, we purify our souls and  our intentions recognizing that we all need reconstruction inside so as to build in the outside.

[___blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God ___]

This act of our repentance and God’s absolution also enables us to be good even if the goodness of others were not to measure up to our own standard.

This is the example of the vineyard owner who finds a way be generous.  Can you and I?

[___blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy ___]

[*** P A U S E ***]

[__04__]    The Beatitudes also remind us that we can grow closer to God by living simply, by loving not the things of earth but the things that money cannot buy.

Of course, it is also true that a situation of poverty, of unemployment can be fearful, intimidating.

Yet, our spiritual upward mobility does not depend on what we have but we give away in love  and service.  This means  simplicity … sacrifice …
Jesus himself observed this in the famous widow at the Temple who has nothing to give but gives away all she has.

[___blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land___]

[___blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven___]

[*** P A U S E ***]

[__05__]  This Sunday, we observe the Feast of All Saints’ Day,  while also remembering and praying for our loved ones who have died in the past year (@  11:30 am Mass on Sunday November  1st).

We pray that  the angels and saints will watch over  them.

Some of our loved ones were,  in their lives, overwhelmed by suffering, by pain.

They may have been – we may have been – intimidated – defeated – by their difficulty.

At times, we would have shared their fear, their anguish.

And, in this regard, we would have responded to, we would have confronted the  intimidation of suffering with compassion and with respect, with prayer and with acts of consolation, comfort.

Jesus told his disciples, “And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

Every time you poured a cup of water, you followed the command to do unto others.

[__06__]   [Pope John  Paul II observed that …]

Jesus cautioned his disciples about the intimidation they would face.

He wanted that they would be – and he desires that we would be – serene, peaceful, amid the greatest suffering, the death of a loved one, child, sister, brother, spouse, family or friend.

Of course, naturally and logically , we fight. We may even deny. We may resemble Peter who tries to step in the way of death a few  times. Jesus asks him to step out the way…. “Get behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:33).

And, at the arrest of Jesus at Gethsemane, Peter steps in the way with his sword. (Matthew 26:52)

By the way, from this incident, we take the proverb … “those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”

Peter is  intimidated. He fights back.

Jesus urges that Peter and urges  that we would  come to him. Yes, grief and sorrow are painful.  It can be intimidating and  painful to recall someone’s life … or to be present to the dying person.

But,  this grief and sorrow, over time, can help to heal us, bring us all closer to Heaven.

[___blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted ___]


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