Sunday, January 29, 2017

¨When I was your age¨ (4th Sunday) (2017-01-29)

4th Sunday (Year A)  29 January 2017

Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13 • Psalm 146 • 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 • Matthew 5:1-12a

[__01__]  We read this Sunday from the Matthew, Chapter 5, the Beatitudes and the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, which begins: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”   (Matthew 5:3)

[__01.01__]  “When I was your age … ”  “When I was your age … ”
          If someone begins a sentence like this, it is probably going to be a SERMON, a sermon on the mount from someone more senior, more elder to us.
          “When I was your age … ”
          Someone is going to tell us how it was.
          And, Jesus is telling us how it was, how it is, and how it will be for a disciple, for a follower of his Gospel.
          Jesus is telling us this, to encourage us, not to frighten us, not to scare us, but to encourage us and to challenge us.

[__02_ ]   “When I was your age …”
          When I heard my grandmother and my grandfather speak of their emigration from Ireland and their immigration to the United States, I expected to hear of some challenge. And, occasionally, I was frightened to hear about what each of them endured.
           Without any money and just a few family connections, they had to work as hard as they could in Bayonne, Jersey City, and New York to support their family.
          They returned only very intermittently to see their family in Ireland. In my grandmother’s case, she departed Ireland as a teenager and returned only once at the age of 73.
          My grandfather also reported the inconvenient truth of his arrival in January of 1929 in New York, a few months before the stock market crash of October 1929.   As he said, “I arrived here just in time.”
          “When I was your age …”

[__03_ ]   When our parents or teachers give us these autobiographies, these stories of their lives, they are often trying to tell us, to challenge us. And, I did not dare to disagree with them.
          They are reminding us that we have it easier than they did.

[__04__]   And, I did not dare to disagree with them. And, while, at times, I dared – in my own mind – to think they were not as sophisticated or educated as I am, I also do not know that I could have attained their success or persevered as well.
          What if I were their age?
          In some cases, our elders, our parents, our coaches, our teachers are touching on subjects contained in the Beatitudes. They are encouraging us to do our best, to persevere, while also acknowledging that we will experience, each in our own way --
·        Poverty
·        The sorrow of mourning and grief
·        Meekness, humility
·        Persecution
          These are also the themes of the Beatitudes.

[__05_ ]   And, in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus our Savior, was also communicating – though not complaining – about these things to us. He is saying that a life of virtue, honesty, integrity that would also bring at times…
·        Poverty
·        Sorrow of mourning and grief
·        Meekness, humility
·        Persecution
            In other words, there will not always be fairness or justice in our lives.
[__06__]    Also, Jesus is reminding us that though we may have money or wealth, status, popularity, education, none of this is as important as our loving relationship with God and loving relationship with others is more important than any of these.

          [** pause **]

          What is the greatest commandment?   “Love God with all of your heart, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:37)

          These are the treasures in heaven which cannot be disturbed or destroyed by the elements of the weather or a bad economy or bad luck.

[__08__]  In fact, theses treasures grow in value when we recall that for example…

[__08.01__]   MONEY AND WEALTH. These are blessings which we both own and are called to share.  We should not be too attached to them, thus all of us are called to the spirit and attitude of poverty and simplicity, of detachment regardless of our bank account, whether we have big money or a little money.
          Blessed are the poor in the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

          These are of great value. Of course, we cherish and treasure these relationships to our mothers and fathers, to our spouse, to our children and grandchildren, our sisters and brothers, our good friends.
          Yet, at times, we are asked to say farewell, to recognize that God has a timeline and a plan for our lives that is not in our calendar or written in our agenda or on our phones.
          At such times, our tears, our lamentations, our sorrows, prayers and our support of each other are important.  We are called to grief and to acknowledge our sorrow, and to grieve together.
          Such honesty about our sadness and pain helps us to grow and to love.         Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

[__08.03__]   STATUS AND POWER.  Certainly, our reputation has value. Your personal reputation has value. It is to be protected. Yet, at times, all of us will be humbled, we will be shaken up. Not everyone is going to admire us, appreciate us.  This does not destroy us.. as Jesus also teaches…
          Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the land.
          And, we are blessed when we are a little humble or humbled by an obstacle, a lack of success, a failure.
          Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
          We are not always in the right, we may have to hunger for it or work for this daily bread, to satisfy our hunger.

[__09__]    Today, centuries after his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus is still with us.
          Yes, he is our elder brother still speaking to us, telling us , what it was like, “when he was our age.”
          When he was our age, though was anointed by God as the Messiah, he endured great pain and suffering and did this not for his own glory or to prove his own worth, but to prove our worth, our value.
          Isn’t this true of our parents, our teachers, our coaches, our grandparents, they did things for us not to prove their value but to prove our value. 
          To be Christlike is not only to recognize my value but the value in the other person.
          In a similar way, when we forgive someone, we do this not to show how magnanimous or intelligent or generous we are or great we are, but to show the greatness of the other person.

          And … blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. 
[__10__]     [__fin__]  

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