Monday, June 6, 2016

Radical Gratitude

I'm very excited this morning as we begin our pro-life VBS program.  I wanted to get my assignment and blog entry done first thing and get my prayers in early.  I am glad I did.  The first reading for today reminds me that in all things, it is God who is the source of our provision.  The rain, the weather, all of creation responds to His Word.   What kind of VBS teacher would I be if I did not rely on that simple truth?   It requires though that we be obedient.   Elijah has just made a statement that it will not rain or even dew without his approval, all by the power of the Lord.   He has to do his part though. Elijah has to journey into the area of the Wadi Cherith and remain there.   There the Lord will provide for him by having food brought to him morning and evening.  The Wadi is a stream that has deep hidden areas that provide a place for the persecuted to hide.   Even in God's provisional plan not only has he taken care of his need for food and drink, but provided him a place to remain with physical protection.

Jesus in the Gospel for today continues that theme of obedience and providence.  Mathew is writing to a predominately Jewish audience and theologically is portraying Jesus as the New Moses, the greater Prophet, who ascends the mountain and gives us the Law.   The disciples go up with Him and he proceeds to give them one of the most important speeches in the history of mankind, the beatitudes.  Some try to claim that Jesus did away with obedience, that we no longer have to do anything but profess and believe.  It's not either or, but both and.   Jesus didn't make things easier morally, he made them even more difficult.  He did not 'do away' with morality but required it to be internalized, to become a part of who we are.  They are in fact the road-map to obedience.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.Blessed are they who mourn,for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek,for they will inherit the land.Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,for they will be satisfied.Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the clean of heart,for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called children of God.Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute youand utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.Rejoice and be glad,for your reward will be great in heaven.

When we examine and delve into these eight simple, yet very complex statements, we find that they describe the incarnation of God himself, Christ.  His life lived them out perfectly.   Who is more poor in spirit than He who condescended from omnipotence to become a mortal man for the sake of us?  Who mourns more than the God who loves us so greatly that He would die in our steed to prevent us ever being separated from His side?  Who is meeker than the Paschal Lamb whose blood was offered as a propitiation for our sins? Who can dare thirst for righteousness or is more merciful  than He who is justice and mercy itself? Again who can claim to be more clean of heart than the spotless, unblemished sacrifice of God's only begotten Son?  Then who can claim to be more of a peacemaker than  He who tore down the wall that separated Gentile and Jew and restored mankind to the state of grace for which we were created?

Yes, the beatitudes describe Christ the man, but more powerfully Christ on the Cross.   They call us to a radical notion of detachment.   To be free of all the vices and desires of this life.   Power, wealth, pleasure, and honor.   All of which Jesus gave up on the cross.   Who is more powerless than to be nailed to a tree by your hands and feet, to die a slow and horrendous death in the stead of another?   Who has less wealth than the one whose very clothing is being gambled for and given away as you hang naked moments from death?  Who has less pleasure than to experience the pain and agony of thirst and crucifixion in the hot desert air?  Who lacks honor man than He who was King of the Universe to be mocked, spit on, and executed in the death which is reserved for the worst of the worst Criminals.

1717 The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection; they shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations; they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ's disciples; they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.

The beatitudes indeed call us to a radical detachment from this world.   They also call us though, to a radical attachment to God himself.  This attachment comes in the form of obedience.  It starts by emulating Christ.  By being more like Christ, we become more like God.  In living a life of detachment from this world with a radical attachment to God, we rely on Him just as Elijah did at the Wadi.  We count on him for our sustenance,  for our protection, for our comforts and joys.   We cling to Him in times of sorrow.  We seek not our own, but His!  We need not wealth to be happy and joyful, but rather can become generous and loving with whatever we are blessed with.  Yes, these beatitudes are the key to living a life of peace and joy.  The key to understanding them lies in the Eucharist, in the person of Christ, in the Sacraments.  Are you ready to get radical?   I don't know if I am ready for it, but Lord I am willing!  Let's make that our prayer today.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."