Friday, February 11, 2022

HOMILY – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Elevation (English and Spanish)


           This weekend, Jesus is not preaching his Beatitudes on a mountain (as he does in Matthew’s Gospel), he’s preaching his Beatitudes on a plain. On level ground.

But that doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t still talking about elevation in Luke’s Gospel.

           The Oxford dictionary defines the word elevation this way:

                                 The action or fact of elevating (something).

           Jesus is elevating something important for us this weekend and wants us to take notice.

           In the time of Jesus (and for many today), it was believed that only the wealthy and prosperous were worthy of God’s abundant blessings.

This is why the rich had no struggles. They were “blessed” by God who was taking care of them and their many endeavors.

Conversely, the poor and marginalized were cursed by God.

           But Jesus comes along to turn that thinking on its head.

           For years before Jesus, Hebrew scriptures pointed to the poor and oppressed as those deserving special attention. The prophets spoke of this often over the centuries before Jesus. But people didn’t listen. Are we listening today?

           As author of Jesus, A Pilgrimage, Jesuit Fr. James Martin says, “But Jesus goes beyond that, elevating them in his reign and offering them as models of discipleship. (The poor and oppressed) provide a partial sketch of character traits, attitudes, and virtues befitting disciples.”

           The Beatitudes are often referred to as “the Gospel within the Gospel.”

           Luke situates this Beatitudes on level ground, not on a mountain. He has just come off a mountain after naming his twelve apostles.

            The first thing he does after this is to address a “great multitude” of people with his Beatitudes. In his message is a set of operating instructions for his disciples (especially the Twelve).

           In other words, his message is intended for everyone.

Yes, even us.

           No doubt many in the crowd were elated to hear they were counted among the blessed.

He’s basically promising the poor and oppressed that they, too, can share in the reign of God. Not just the rich. This was revolutionary thinking at the time. Is it still revolutionary thinking?

           If we closely examine the Greek word used by Jesus for the poor, we have a clearer picture of his message: ptochoi is the word used. It means beggar.

           Imagine if we proclaimed, “Blessed are the beggars.”

How many people hearing that might bristle at the thought that the homeless people found in abundance here in Seattle are blessed?

           But this is what Jesus is proclaiming.

           In our society today (and the society in Jesus’ time), the poor, the beggars were seen as “lazy” or “foolish” or even “losers.”

           These are people set aside by society as human trash. Marginalized for how they live and survive in a land of plenty.

           These are the people Jesus is talking about today.

           For our Sacred Encounters missionaries, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”

           As Fr. Martin reminds us, “Embedded in the Beatitudes is the recognition that some disciples will be thought of as people who don’t matter.”

           These are people worthy of our love and attention.

           “The ones on the bottom are (now) on top. The ones who are ignored are celebrated. The ones who are pushed aside are given a pride of place… Blessed are they (indeed).”

           As Pope Francis reminds us, “we can learn much from the poor.”

Those without wealth, power or status have a natural dependence on God for their daily needs. This is who Jesus wants us to be like.

           I remember a time when a new homeless woman appeared for the first time on the streets in Everett. She’d just gotten off a train from out of state with a brand, new duffel bag, a little therapy dog and a sweet disposition. She was in her 50s.

           Our homeless friends were the first to point her out to us and say, “She’s a target. She will be robbed. Can you do something to help her?”

           We put the woman up in a hotel and then worked to get her into a woman’s shelter that allows animals based in Bellevue.

           The kindness and generosity of our unhoused friends can be overpowering at times.

I cannot tell you how many times we hear the words “God bless you” every time we’re out. Or see someone we’ve given a blanket to offer that same blanket to another person when we run out of blankets.

These experiences are good reminders of the Beatitudes lesson Jesus is speaking of today.             

           Jesus is calling us all to be people of the Beatitudes.

           Fr. Martin says, “Jesus is saying that more than helping the poor and more than working to combat the systems that keep them poor, we must become like them – in their simplicity, generosity and dependence on God.”

           Here’s an interesting fact for reflection: the word “blessed” in Greek carries two meanings: “blessed” or “happy.”

           Now, let’s change this weekend’s reading and I challenge you to ponder this:

           Happy are you who are poor,
                        for the kingdom of God is yours.
            Happy are you who are now hungry,
                        for you will be satisfied.
            Happy are you who are now weeping,
                        for you will laugh.
            Happy 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.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!”

            Maybe Jesus is giving us the key to happiness in the Christian life: by embracing simplicity and living the Beatitudes.




HOMILIA – VI Domingo Ordinario Time – Elevación


           Este fin de semana, Jesús no está predicando sus Bienaventuranzas en una montaña (como lo hace en el Evangelio de Mateo), está predicando sus Bienaventuranzas en una llanura.

Pero eso no significa que Jesús todavía no esté hablando de elevación en el Evangelio de San Lucas.

           El diccionario Oxford define la palabra elevación de esta manera: La acción o hecho de elevar (algo).

           Jesús está elevando algo importante este fin de semana y quiere que nos demos cuenta.

           En el tiempo de Jesús (y para muchos hoy), se creía que sólo los ricos y prósperos eran dignos de las abundantes bendiciones de Dios.

Por el contrario, los pobres y marginados fueron maldecidos por Dios.

           Pero Jesús viene a darle la vuelta a ese pensamiento.

           Durante los años antes de Jesús, las escrituras hebreas señalaron a los pobres y oprimidos como aquellos que merecen una atención especial.  Los profetas hablaron de esto a menudo a lo largo de los siglos antes de Jesús. Pero la gente no escuchó. ¿Estamos escuchando hoy?

           Como dice el autor de “Jesús, Una peregrinación”, el Padre jesuita Jaime Martin: "Pero Jesús va más allá de eso, elevándolos en su reinado y ofreciéndolos como modelos de discipulado. (Los pobres y oprimidos) proporcionan un bosquejo parcial de los rasgos de carácter, actitudes y virtudes propias de los discípulos".

           Las Bienaventuranzas a menudo se conocen como "el Evangelio dentro del Evangelio".

           San Lucas sitúa estas Bienaventuranzas en un terreno nivelado y no en una montaña. Acaba de salir de la montaña después de nombrar a sus doce apóstoles.

            Lo primero que hace después de esto es dirigirse a una "gran multitud" de personas con sus Bienaventuranzas. En su mensaje hay un conjunto de instrucciones operativas para sus discípulos (especialmente los Doce).

           En otras palabras, su mensaje está destinado a todos.

Sí, incluso nosotros.

           Sin duda, muchos en la multitud estaban eufóricos al escuchar que eran contados entre los beatos.

Básicamente está prometiendo a los pobres y oprimidos que ellos también pueden ser parte del reino de Dios. No solo los ricos. Este era un pensamiento revolucionario en ese momento.

           Si examinamos de cerca la palabra griega utilizada por Jesús para los pobres, tenemos una imagen más clara de su mensaje: ptochoi es la palabra utilizada. Significa mendigo.

           Imagínese si proclamáramos: "Dichosos los mendigos".

¿Cuántas personas que escuchan eso podrían erizarse al pensar que personas sin hogar que se encuentran en abundancia aquí en Seattle son bendecidos?

Pero esto es lo que Jesús está proclamando.

           En nuestra sociedad actual (y en la sociedad en el tiempo de Jesús), los pobres, los mendigos eran vistos como "perezosos" "tontos" o incluso "perdedores".

           Estas son personas reservadas por la sociedad como basura humana. Marginados por cómo viven y sobreviven en una tierra de abundancia.

           Estas son las personas de las que Jesús está hablando hoy.  

           Como nos recuerda el Padre Martin, "Incrustado en las Bienaventuranzas está el reconocimiento de que algunos discípulos serán considerados como personas que no importan".

           Estas son personas dignas de nuestro amor y atención.

           "Los de abajo están (ahora) arriba. Los que son ignorados son celebrados. A los que son dejados de lado se les da un lugar de honor ... Bienaventurados son ellos (de hecho)".

Nos recuerda el Papa Francisco, "podemos aprender mucho de los pobres".

Aquellos sin riqueza, poder de estatus tienen una dependencia natural de Dios para sus necesidades diarias. Esto es lo que Jesús quiere que seamos.

           Recuerdo un momento en que una nueva mujer sin hogar apareció por primera vez en las calles de Everett. Acababa de bajar de un tren de fuera del estado con una nueva bolsa de lona, un pequeño perro de terapia y una disposición dulce.

           Nuestros amigos sin hogar fueron los primeros en señalarla y decirnos: "Ella es un objetivo. Le robarán. ¿Puedes hacer algo para ayudarla?"

           Pusimos a la mujer en un hotel y luego trabajamos para llevarla a un refugio para mujeres que permite animales con base en Bellevue.

La amabilidad y generosidad de nuestros amigos sin hogar puede ser abrumadora a veces. No puedo decirte cuántas veces escuchamos "Que Dios te bendiga" cada vez que salimos. O ver a alguien a quien le hemos dado una manta, ofrecer esa misma manta a otra persona cuando nos quedemos sin mantas.

Estas experiencias son buenos recordatorios de las Bienaventuranzas de las que Jesús está hablando hoy.     

Jesús nos está llamando a todos a ser personas de las Bienaventuranzas.

El Padre Martin dice: "Jesús está diciendo que más que ayudar a los pobres y más que trabajar para combatir los sistemas que los mantienen pobres, debemos llegar a ser como ellos, en su simplicidad, generosidad y dependencia de Dios".

Aquí hay un hecho interesante para la reflexión: la palabra "bendito" en griego tiene dos significados: "bendito" o "feliz".

Ahora, cambiemos la lectura de este fin de semana y los desafío a reflexionar sobre esto:

           "Felices son ustedes que son pobres,

                        porque el reino de Dios es suyo.

            Felices son ustedes que ahora tienen hambre,

                        porque estarán satisfechos.

            Feliz son ustedes que ahora están llorando,

                        porque se reirán.

            Feliz son cuando la gente los odia,

                        y cuando los excluyen e insultan,

                        y los llaman malvados

                        a causa del Hijo del Hombre.

¡Regocíjense y salten de alegría en ese día!"

Tal vez Jesús nos está dando la clave de la felicidad en la vida cristiana: abrazar la sencillez y vivir las Bienaventuranzas.

Friday, February 4, 2022

HOMILY– Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Learn from Peter


           This weekend we hear the first call story in Luke’s Gospel.

Peter has much to teach us about how to be a better disciple of Christ.

           Peter provides the perfect example of how we are to cooperate with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit in our lives. It starts with being open to this encounter.

           The prophet Isaiah starts us off with a focus on who are called to be ministers of God’s word.

           God does not seek the perfect. He seeks us with all our imperfections.

           Remember, Jesus doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

           The prophet Isaiah describes his own prophetic call, “I am a man of unclean lips.” In other words, I am not qualified to speak for God.

           But the Lord purifies his lips, “your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

When the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah answers, “Here I am (Lord)… send me!”

           Isaiah’s words, of course, come from a dream.

In it, Isaiah comes face-to-face with God and says “Yes” to doing God’s will in the world.

If only we would always say “Yes” when we are called by God. Imagine the world we’d live in?

This reading is the perfect set up to Peter’s encounter with Christ.

Imagine this fisherman cleaning his nets after a fruitless night of fishing, exhausted, resigned to the fact he would take nothing home to his family or to the market to sell to provide for his family.

Along comes Jesus who had been doing miraculous things throughout Capernaum just a few miles away from the lake. His healings attracted a large crowd.

Jesus knew if he could be on a boat close to shore it would be easier for the crowds to hear his voice (because sound travels better across water).

Peter is minding his own business, when Jesus walks up and asks to use his boat to address the crowds.

After Jesus is done speaking to the crowd, probably as a way of saying “thank you” and to call Peter into his ministry, Jesus asks the fisherman to put out to deep waters for a catch.

Now, it’s the middle of the day. Any fisherman knows that lake fish are not usually as active in the heat of midday. Usually only in the early morning and at sundown.

Peter heard Jesus’ preaching before the crowds. He knows there is something special about this man Jesus. But his reaction is all too human to Jesus’ request.

Really? You want me to do what?

Then the miracle happens, and Peter is gob smacked.

When Jesus hops into our boat get ready for a wild ride.

Jesus uses the experience to call the future leader of his Church.

The reluctant, self-admitted sinful man prostates himself before Jesus and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

         But Jesus won’t take no for an answer, and tells Peter, “Do not be afraid.” Then calls him to follow him and become a fisher of people.

What can we learn from Peter’s encounter with Christ?

1.      Be prayerfully aware of the times Jesus is near – especially in our encounters on the peripheries

How many times have I encountered Jesus in the poor and marginalized? The encounters are too many to count. And I am always astonished at how Jesus is made manifest in serving others on the peripheries.

2.     Be humble

None of us is perfect. None of us is worthy. Yet, Jesus calls us all the same. Remember that.

3.     Be honest about our weaknesses and know Jesus wants to work through our weaknesses to further his ministry

Jesus may have called Peter to lead the Church because Peter was so conscious of his own weaknesses. Are we conscious of our own weaknesses?

4.     Be open to leave old ways behind and allow something new to change the entire direction of our lives

Jesus knew the only way to get Peter to say “Yes” to following him was to use fishing as a metaphor for ministry. Fishing is all Peter knew. What do we know best? How is Jesus using what we know to call us to do more to extend his ministry to those around us?

5.     Be prophetic in proclaiming Jesus to the world and to our friends and family

This is a hard one for most Catholics. We bristle at the idea of proselytizing. But Jesus wants us to proclaim him more by our actions than just our words. The early Christians understood this. Do we today?

When we read of Peter’s encounter with Jesus, we need to be honest about the feelings that may be holding us back from doing more for Jesus in our lives: unworthiness, fear, fear of change, fear of intimacy with Jesus.

In his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, author and Jesuit Fr. James Martin reminds us, “Jesus does not come to drive people away, but to call us to join him, if we are willing to follow, no matter who we are – single, married, or vowed; rich or poor, old or young; liberal or conservative; lay, clergy or religious; gay or straight.”

Fr. Martin goes on to say, “This is an important message to those who, for whatever reason, feel as if their churches are saying to them, ‘Go away’… Christ’s message is not only a call to conversion, but one of inclusion, a message that welcomes us into the community and restores us to it. Even if you are made to feel unworthy, and are tempted to say (to the Lord), ‘Go away!’ Christ says, as he did to Peter, ‘Join me in my great mission.’”

Jesus wants us (like Peter) to focus on our future with him with hope and trust, not backwards on our past with fear.

How is Jesus speaking through our lives today?

Do we hear his call?

Are we doing all we can to support his mission of love?