This homily was given by Bishop Paul S. Loverde on February 10 at the Vigil Mass for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, during the Teens and Parents Conference at Paul VI High School in Fairfax.
Most of us are here today because we want to listen better — to our parents, to our children, and most of all, to the Lord Jesus Christ. I recall many times in my own childhood and adolescence when listening to my parents was not easy. As a child, I could be very strong-willed. Well, when I didn't listen to my mom, she would discipline me. Once I said to her, after being disciplined, "I'll do it again," and she said: "I'll discipline you again." I realized fairly quickly that I wasn't going to win. I had better listen.
Well, at this point in our day, we are listening to God. After all, in this first part of the Mass, called the Liturgy of the Word, God is speaking to us through His Word in the three scripture readings — His Word which is real, alive, now!
In today's gospel account from St. Luke, Jesus is telling us: "Blessed are you who are poor…, blessed are you who are hungry…, blessed are you who are now weeping…, blessed are you when people hate you…." What Jesus is saying in Saint Luke's gospel and what Saint Matthew records in his gospel in an expanded version: these are called "the Beatitudes." What the Beatitudes present to us is a radically different and new way of living life. Listen again: blessed are the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the insulted!
When we first hear Jesus telling us these words, we wonder if we heard them correctly. Then, we wonder why is Jesus speaking this way? What is He really doing? He is leveling our preconceptions about how we should live our lives. We think that we live life well when we are rich, have lots of things, eat well and never encounter any hardship. We think our happiness lies in money, power, prestige, pleasure.
By using the Beatitudes, Jesus is telling us that living life with meaning and purpose involves living in a right relationship with Him as our Lord and Savior and living in right relationships with other people, beginning with our family.
Let us look at what living in right relationship with the Lord means. He must be the center of our lives, our model, our inspiration, the source of our strength. Our hope lies primarily in Him. That is what the prophet Jeremiah says so clearly in today's first reading. "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord." Why can we put our ultimate hope in Jesus? Because, as Saint Paul reminds us in today's second reading from his First Letter to the Corinthians, Christ has truly risen from the dead. He lives now and intercedes for us. Yes, we live in a right relationship with the Lord when he is the true source of our hope and strength, when we imitate Him in our thinking, speaking and acting.
Let us look at what living in right relationships with others means. When we keep trying to understand one another better, to listen more attentively beneath the words and read the "signs" more carefully, to be more patient and, yes, more forgiving, we are living in a right relationship with others. In addition, using the beatitudes in realistic ways also helps to live rightly with others. So, let us look at what Jesus told us today.
Blessed are the poor… In our families, do we search for happiness in things, in material possessions, instead of in Jesus, in the love we have for one another? We can live without things, but we cannot live without love.
Blessed are the hungry… How often in our families do we hunger for love, understanding and acceptance! After all, if we cannot gain acceptance and love in our own families, how are we going to find it beyond the family?
Blessed are those who weep… We are easy ‘targets' for one another in families — often saying the wrong, hurtful word, instead of an encouraging one. When we say the wrong word, we need to follow up with a humble apology — and the offended one must offer forgiveness. This is not easy!
Blessed are you when people hate you… In our schools, neighborhood and places of work, we will have to take difficult stands for the truth of Jesus Christ. Sometimes this will cause others to hate us. Our families — the ‘domestic church' — must be characterized by love and mercy.
When we really listen to the Lord and to each other in the spirit of the Beatitudes, we are living in right relationships.
Today, we have listened — as parents, as children, as disciples of Jesus. Listening more attentively and carefully to the Lord and to each other is the first lesson we have learned today. Being a member of a family takes time and energy and lots of listening. This is the other lesson we have learned today. But, we must not only learn these lessons; we must live them. Let me propose an action step. On Saturday evening or on Sunday morning, after you have taken part in the Holy Mass, as a family you could discuss how the scriptures and homily will influence your life. Or, you could share your "blessing of the week" — the one thing in which you experienced God's presence and blessing. In any case, making time to listen is a concrete way to put into practice the benefits of this day.
Jesus repeated the word "blessed" several times in our hearing. "Blessed" will we be if we try every day to live in love with God and with others, beginning with the family. Do this and you will truly live!