6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

FR TONY'S HOMILYRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS
1913 50 YEAR Anniversary (5:52) Amazing historical movie footage from 1913 and 1938 of the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the U.S. Civil War.

True Happiness is
Sharing Our Blessings

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. Here is one example. Visit Fr. Tony’s website for a whole lot more. 

Fr. Tony’s Eight Minute Homilies

Frederick Buechner tells about watching a scene in the Ken Burns film series on the Civil War. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and veterans from North and South gathered at the battleground to reminisce. At one point, the veterans decided to reenact Pickett’s Charge. All the participants took their positions, and then one side began to charge the other. Instead of swords and rifles, this time the vets carried canes and crutches. As both sides converged, the old men did not fight. Instead they embraced and began to weep.

Buechner muses, “If only those doddering old veterans had seen in 1863 what they now saw so clearly fifty years later.” Then he adds: “Half a century later, they saw that the great battle had been a great madness. The men who were advancing toward them across the field of Gettysburg were not enemies. They were human beings like themselves, with the same dreams, needs, hopes, the same wives and children waiting for them to come home … What they saw was that we were, all of us, created not to do battle with each other but to love each other, and it was not just a truth they saw. For a few minutes, it was a truth they lived. It was a truth they became.”

Frederick Buechner, “Journey Toward Wholeness,” Theology Today 49/4 (January 1993), pp. 454-464.
MORE ILLUSTRATIONS

# 1: Beatitude in puppy’s tail: Said a puppy to his old uncle dog, “From my short experience in life I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness and that happiness is in my tail. That is why I am chasing my tail, and when I catch it, I shall have perfect happiness.” The old dog replied, “From my research and long experience, I too, have judged that happiness is a fine thing for a dog and that happiness is in his tail. But I’ve noticed that whenever I chase it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business, it comes after me.” (Here are the examples of three famous women who chased happiness as the puppy did, in the wrong places, and met with tragic ends: 1) Anna Nicole Smith (39)-model, cover girl, actress – sought happiness in drugs; died of an overdose, February 8, 2007). 2) Marilyn Monroe (36)- actress, American idol, model- who did the same in 1962, and 3) Princess Diana of England (36) who met with accidental death August 31, 1997, on her way to seeking happiness in the wrong place.) What is our picture of a happy life? According to one study conducted in the U.S.A. only 20% of Americans claim to be happy. Is the “American dream” our picture of the happy life: the ideal of owning a beautiful home with a two-car garage, having a loving and adjusting spouse, two well-behaved kids, and a dog, enjoying a decent job, and having enough money to enjoy leisure and retired life? — Where do we go in search of happiness: the movie theater, the amusement park, a hiking trail, a shopping mall, a good restaurant, a ballpark? In the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew, and in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke from which we read today, Jesus gives us a rather different picture of a happy life. Jesus tells us that we can find true and lasting happiness in ways we may never have considered.

# 2: Happiness MythsDr. Harold Treffert is the director of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin. In an article entitled “The American Fairy Tale,” he discusses five dangerous ideas we have about the meaning of happiness. First, happiness is things. The more you accumulate and have, the happier you will be. Second, happiness is what you do. The more you produce and earn, the happier you will be. Third, happiness is being the same as others. The more you are fashionable and conform with the times, the happier you will be. Fourth, happiness is mental health. The fewer problems you have and the more carefree you are, the happier you will be. Fifth, happiness is communicating with electronic gadgets. The more you can communicate with a television set, a satellite, or a computer, the happier you will be. According to Dr. Treffert, these five myths about happiness are the cause of many mental health problems today. — If happiness cannot be found through these five myths of “The American Fairy Tale,” then where do we find it? Jesus gives us the answer when he outlines the beatitudes in today’s reading from Luke. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds

# 3: Don’t you believe the Bible?  Sometime before she died, someone had the audacity to ask St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), “Why do you spend so much energy on the poor, the hungry, and the weeping of those in Calcutta?” She responded, “Jesus says the poor are the blessed ones. I take him at his word. I treat them as the royalty of God’s kingdom, because they are.” — To grow into becoming a Christian is, in no small part, to be converted into seeing the world as God sees it. It is to be given new eyes to look upon people and events from an eternally loving perspective. When that begins to happen, you begin to see that God has an opinion about how life should be lived, what Churches should be doing, and how people should act. You begin to see that the future belongs to those whom God blesses. They include the poor, the hungry, the hopeless, the damaged, and those whose only salvation is found in the God who comes to redeem.


Central Theme of the Readings

Today’s readings teach us that true happiness, or beatitude, lies in the awareness that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father and that we will be happy only when we share our blessings with our brothers and sisters in need, and when we work to uplift them, thus declaring our “option for the poor,” as Jesus did. Contrary to the popular belief, wealth, health, power, and influence are not the sources of true happiness. The word “beatitude” means “blessedness” in a double sense: both enjoying God’s favor and enjoying true or supreme happiness.


Scripture Readings Summarized

First Reading

In the first reading, Jeremiah tells us that true happiness consists in our placing our trust in God and in putting our trust in His promises.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Jeremiah (sixth century BC) shows us a a curse (17:5-6), paired with its opposite, a beatitude of blessing (17:7-8), when he compares the wicked to a barren bush in a desert and the just to a well-watered tree growing near a running stream.  In essence, this “beatitude” teaches us that if we choose God as our hope, our security, and our happiness, we will be blessed, truly happy. On the other hand, if we choose human standards for our guides, ourselves as our source of security, and the meeting of our own needs and desires as our happiness, we will find ourselves living in increasing misery and confusion, that is, in woe.   Jeremiah tells us that the only source of lasting happiness is trust in God and hope in His promises. The manner in which one  personally exercises one’s freedom of choice will also determine whether one will bring upon oneself and  the  world blessings or curses. The passage is amplified in Psalm 1, today’s Responsorial Psalm.


Responsorial Psalm

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 1) finds beatitude in keeping God’s Law.


Second Reading

In the second reading St. Paul warns us that true beatitude is obtainable only in Heaven, and that Christ’s Resurrection gives us our assurance of reaching Heaven for an everlasting life of happiness.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

St. Paul writes that trusting hope in the Resurrection of Jesus is the basis of our Faith, of our own resurrection and of our eternal bliss. Through Jesus’ death and Resurrection, believers are now welcomed into a new relationship with God as His sons and daughters, and with each other as dear brothers and sisters who have Jesus as our Elder Brother and Redeemer. This means that all the blessings of the Beatitudes are now available to us, provided we choose to follow them, for they codify, so to speak, the pattern of living Jesus established.


Gospel

In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. “Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted and denounced,” because in poverty, we recognize our dependence on God; in hunger, God’s providence; in sorrow for sins, reconciliation with God; and in persecution, the true joy of standing for the Faith with heroic convictions. What makes one blessed is not simply poverty or hunger or sadness or suffering for the Faith but living these in the context of one’s commitment to Jesus and his spirit of sharing. Beatitudes consist in humble selflessness and compassionate, generous sharing of our blessings with the needy. The beatitudes must be understood as eschatological statements which see and evaluate the present in terms of the future glory and everlasting happiness.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Luke presents the Sermon on the Plain as following immediately upon the choosing of the twelve apostles (Lk 6:13 ff).   Therefore, one of the Fathers of the Church called this sermon “The Ordination Address to the Twelve.”  Both the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke are also known as “The Compendium of Christian Doctrine,” “The Magna Carta of the Kingdom,” and “The Manifesto of the King.”    In these two sermons we have the essence of Jesus’ teachings to his chosen apostles.  The introductory portion of the sermon consists of blessings and woes that reflect the real polarity in humanity’s economic and social living conditions (the rich vs poor; the satisfied vs the hungry; those laughing  vs those grieving; the socially acceptable vs the outcast).  The “beatitude” was a specific genre found in both Greek and Jewish literature (e.g. Ps 1:1; Prv 8:24, Dn 12:12; Tb 13:14), adopted for use by Christian writers (Rom 8:34; Mt 5:3-12; Jn 20:29; Rv 14:13, 16:15, 22:7). Each  of the eight Beatitudes consisted of a pronouncement of blessedness (makarios) followed by who is blessed and why. These beatitudes of Jesus were taught in Aramaic.   In Aramaic they are not simple statements; rather, they are exclamations, i.e., “O the blessedness of the poor in spirit!” (Compare today’s Responsorial Psalm [Psalm 1], for a similar Hebrew version). In our current language it may be phrased as “Congratulations to …” the poor, the hungry etc. as a way of celebrating the blessed person’s success. Luke proposes that material poverty leads us to greater detachment from the things of this world, thereby allowing us to attach ourselves to spiritual values.  The blessings must be understood as eschatological statements which see and evaluate the present in terms of the future. In the same way, the woes pronounced upon the rich, the full, and those who laugh function as an expression of sadness, not because of the person’s present circumstances but because of what will ultimately be.

Matthew’s vs. Luke’s versions:  Matthew presents the Beatitudes as coming at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  Just as “the first Moses” gave teachings on a mountain in the Old Testament, Jesus is like a new Moses giving us a new sermon, a new teaching from a new mountain. In Luke’s version, Jeus stands on a plain and states the beatitudes and woes in more compact and radical terms.  Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” is shorter than Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” the latter extending through three chapters.   Matthew gives eight Beatitudes (the ninth being an explanation of the eighth), while Luke gives four  “beatitudes”  and four “woess” — (“woe” is an archaic English translation for a “curse” or a “judgment.”).  Moses not only gave the people the Ten Commandments (from Mt. Sinai), but he also gave  them a list of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience in Dt 27:12-13 and chapter 28. The wording in Luke is also quite different from that in Matthew.   In Matthew, Jesus uses   the third person (“they will be filled”), whereas in Luke, Jesus speaks in the second person (“you will be filled”).   Matthew speaks only of the reward promised to those who live according to Jesus’ message.  Luke, on the other hand, emphasizes the consequences that those who do not heed Jesus’ words will suffer.  Whereas Luke declares that the “poor,” are blessed, Matthew uses the phrase “poor in spirit,” thereby advocating a slightly different attitude, or disposition, toward God  (i.e., Blessed are those who recognize their dire need for God, for God will bring them into his Kingdom). Luke’s version seems to mark with greater severity Jesus’ warning to the “rich,” the “full,” the “laughing,” and “those who are spoken well of,” that is, to the self-centered and self-satisfied, whatever their financial or social status.

The fourth beatitude: Addressing his disciples, Jesus calls those who are persecuted for their Faith blessed because 1) they are eligible for a glorious reward (“Your reward will be great in Heaven“); 2) they are given the privilege of sharing in the pain, suffering, and rejection which Jesus himself endured for our sins; and 3) they are following in the footsteps of the martyrs of the Old Testament period and of the early martyrs of the infant Church. The thousands of Christians who courageously face persecution for their Faith in different parts of the world today share in the same beatitude.  Bearing heroic witness to their Faith in Christ Jesus, they teach and inspire us to do the same.

Liberation theology in the “Beatitudes.” Luke presents the beatitudes as reinforcing what Mary had said a few chapters earlier in the Magnificat: “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”  The themes of the beatitudes reappear throughout both Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s account, alone among the Gospels, expands on the words spoken by Jesus at his inaugural sermon in Nazareth. There, Jesus declared an “option for the poor” and a “theology of liberation” with the powerful theme of economic and social reversal clearly stated. Luke’s account also demonstrates Jesus’ solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable and with women, minorities, and the socially despised. In both Matthew and Luke, the beatitudes are a “series of bomb-shells” or “flashes of lightning followed by the thunder of surprise and shock” for Jesus’ hearers. That is because Jesus reverses our “natural” assumption that happiness lies in riches, pleasure, comfort, and influence, and emphasizes the paradoxical   blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution, not in themselves but in what they can do.  He also challenges his listeners to find the fulfillment of all their needs in God. Jesus teaches that, although the poor are despised, resented, or pitied by the world, God loves them deeply in their poverty, their sadness, their hunger, and their deprived status. This is the basis of the so-called “option for the poor” that we are called to have.

Liberation of the oppressed: If the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful, and the hated are all blessed, then why should anyone attempt to help them improve their lot?  The answer is that there is a difference between choosing poverty and being plunged into it without one’s choice, due to an unjust socio-political situation.   There are a few, only a few, saints, like Francis of Assisi  and Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) who freely choose the sufferings and hardships that poverty brings. That is not what the Beatitude suggests, nor what Jesus asks of most of us. It is true that we are unable to eradicate poverty from the face of the earth. But we can help, either directly or by working with others for our poor brothers and sisters, to improve their living conditions and education, so that they may choose to free themselves from the poverty thrust upon them by greedy exploiters. Luke’s account offers the rich the Good News that their salvation lies in their concern for the poor and in the good stewardship of sharing their goods with others in need. But the rich among us remain cursed as long as they remain unwilling to share their surplus with the needy. In short, in the Beatitudes, Jesus envisions a society where the resources which belong to all are divided among all according to need, making everyone blessed and happy.

Life messages

Choose AS MANY AS TIME ALLOWS

1) We need to respond to the challenge of the Beatitudes in our daily life

Millions are starving, persecuted, homeless, and leading hopeless lives. The only way the promises of the Beatitudes can become a reality for them is through the efforts of people like us. Hence, let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick, or the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the Beatitudes here and now.

2) Let us light a candle instead of blaming the political set-up

God knows that 50% of His children are hungry, 80% live in substandard housing and 70% have no education. If over half our children were hungry, cold and uneducated, how would we respond to their suffering? God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another.

3) We must take care to choose our way wisely

There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian Faith. The way of life and true happiness is the way of Jesus, the way of the beatitudes, the way of rendering loving service to God by serving our brothers and sisters.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

1) We need to pray that our encounters with the holiness of God may lead us to recognize our sinfulness

Millions are starving, persecuted, homeless, and leading hopeless lives. The only way the promises of the Beatitudes can become a reality for them is through the efforts of people like us. That is why we are told that we will be judged on the basis of our acts of mercy and charity (Mt 25:31-46).  St. Teresa of Calcutta, (Mother Teresa) and her Missionaries of Charity have accepted this challenge and demonstrate that we can “live the Beatitudes” in the modern world.  Hence, let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick, and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the Beatitudes here and now. Just as the apostles were called to minister to society’s untouchables, all Christians are called to minister to the untouchables, the discriminated against, and the marginalized in our own modern society.

2) Let us light a candle instead of blaming the political set-up

Suppose we put the entire human family into a microcosm of one hundred people.   Eighty of them live in sub-standard housing, fifty are malnourished, and seventy are unable to read, while only one of them has a college education or owns a computer. Six of those one hundred people possess 59% of the world’s wealth and five of them are from the United States.  This may help us to get a picture of the poverty in our world.   God, however, doesn’t need such a microcosm.   He   sees the whole human family.   He knows that 50% of His children are hungry, 80% live in substandard housing and 70% have no education. If over half our children were hungry, cold and uneducated, how would we respond to their suffering?  God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another. This is why, down through the centuries, individuals, congregations and Church bodies have practiced charity in creative, faithful ways. They have operated soup kitchens, food banks, clothing centers, homeless shelters, and housing programs.  Individuals have taken care of their neighbors, helping them out with food, clothing, and shelter when there was need

3) We must take care to choose our way wisely

There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian Faith. The way of life is the way of Jesus, the way of the Beatitudes, the way of loving service to God and our brothers and sisters that leads to eternal life. The other way is the way of death. It is the way of self-centeredness, self-reliance, immorality, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification. It leads to death and hell. Which way are we going? The challenge of the beatitudes is: “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.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 

CHOOSE ONE

1) Blessed are the peace makers: Choice of Weapons:   Little Johnny came home from the playground with a bloody nose, black eye, and torn clothing. It was obvious he’d been in a bad fight and lost. While his father was patching him up, he asked his son what happened. “Well, Dad,” said Johnny, “I challenged Larry to a duel. And, you know, I gave him his choice of weapons.” “Uh-huh,” said the father, “that seems fair.” “I know, but I never thought he’d choose his big sister!”

2) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: Religious Holidays:  An atheist complained to a friend, “Christians have their special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter; and Jews celebrate their holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur; Muslims have their holidays. EVERY religion has its holidays.  But we atheists,”  he said,  “have no recognized national holidays.  It’s an unfair discrimination.”  His friend replied, “Well,why don’t you celebrate April first?”

3)Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God: This is taken from the national archives of the letters of pure-hearted kids to their pastors proving how pure they are in heart:  Dear Pastor…

  • I know God loves everybody, but He never met my sister. Yours sincerely, Arnold. Age 8, Nashville. Dear Pastor, please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson. Sincerely, Pete. Age 9, Phoenix.
  • My father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something. Robert Anderson, age 11.
  • I’m sorry I can’t leave more money in the plate, but my father didn’t give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance? Love, Patty. Age 10, New Haven.
  • My mother is very religious. She goes to play Bingo at Church every week even if she has a cold. Yours truly, Annette. Age 9, Albany.
  • I would like to go to Heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there. Stephen. Age 8, Chicago.
  • I think a lot more people would come to your Church if you moved it to Disneyland. Loreen. Age 9. Tacoma.
  • Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God’s help or a new pitcher. Thank you, Alexander. Age 10, Raleigh.
  • My father says I should learn the Ten Commandments. But I don’t think I want to because we have enough rules already in my house. Joshua. Age 10, South Pasadena.
  • Who does God pray to? Is there a God for God? Sincerely, Christopher. Age 9, Titusville.
  • Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class. Carla. Age 10, Salina.
  • How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers? Sincerely, Marie. Age 9, Lewiston

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.

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