The Pastor's Column

Fr. Maina

Time to Speak Out

Today I talk about the Gospel and highlight the profound message of living a discipleship life so as to enter the kingdom of God. To begin, I invite you to recall how in last week's Gospel Jesus asked Simon Peter to “put out into the deep” for a catch. Jesus wants each one of us to enter more deeply into living out the kingdom of God. Some remain in the shallower regions.

The Gospel today might remind us of Matthew’s story frequently referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Unlike Matthew’s version, however, Luke tells us that Jesus preached the beatitudes on the plain. Maybe this is Luke’s way of saying that this message is meant for everyone, not just those who can climb to the “top.” In fact, Luke notes that there were disciples, the twelve apostles, and a large crowd of diverse people who had come from Jerusalem, Judea, Tyre, and Sidon. Also, Luke tells the story with Jesus speaking directly to the people which differs from Matthew’s version where Jesus speaks of “they.” So, today’s message is also for you and me.

In this message, Jesus begins explaining to us the radical difference between the Kingdom of God and the world as we know it. Following a method commonly used by the prophets, Jesus presents blessings and woes. He first singles out four situations in life that he claims brings blessings. The blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, or persecuted, while the woeful are the rich, the satisfied, the joyful and the respected.

There is a temptation to distance ourselves from the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing and the persecuted because the disparity between what we have and what they lack makes us uncomfortable. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus points out that such people are always in our midst and we must seek ways to help them. No society or country is so far away that our kindness and generosity cannot reach. I met someone this week who is organizing a group of confirmation candidates to go to Guatemala to work in an orphanage. These confirmation candidates will complete their service hours outside their own society and comfort zone. Could you do that? On the other hand, here in Glenview, our friends and neighbors can and do suffer personal or economic setbacks. Are you ready to help when they do? St. Teresa of Calcutta reminded us, “Not everyone can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love.”

Jesus’ point is that if we’re going to be God’s children, we must be adequately instructed as to what God desires from each one of us. Our value system must not be dictated by the world around us but rather by God’s values of a hunger and a thirst for love, truth, and justice. To be a part of God’s Kingdom means that we must have a God-centered worldview. God has different priorities and different purposes from those of this world. We all must be taught what God desires from His people and then begin the hard work of conforming and submitting our lives to His sovereign rule. To enter fully into God’s Kingdom, we have to recognize that wealth and influence are only blessings when we let go and use them to help others.

Later in Luke’s Gospel, we’ll hear Jesus’ story of the ruler, how rich he was and how proud that he kept all the Ten Commandments, and yet how sad he became when he learned that in order to inherit eternal life he would have to let go and share what he had. We will also hear the story of Lazarus who died and went to the bosom of Abraham and how, at the same time a rich man also died and went to Gehenna, not for being rich but for failing to share his riches to help another.

And so today, Jesus calls you and me to “put out into the deep” of the inside of our hearts. Helping the poor, contributing to the food pantry, giving alms, comforting the sorrowful, and demanding justice for the persecuted all represent important ways we can do small things with great love. And on a spiritual level, Jesus calls us to hunger for the word of God. He invites us to thirst for the sacraments and for a deeper relationship with him through prayer.

Perhaps the heart of Jesus’s message is the last beatitude “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.” Prophetically, Jesus prepares those present then and us today as well for a life-long commitment to him. The One whose death was seen as a curse turned out to be a blessing for us. The real blessing comes when we commit to him at the expense of being insulted, scorned, marginalized or even killed. Are you ready to commit to the Son of Man?

God bless you all.

Fr. Maina
With you a Christian, for you a priest.