Once upon a time in a land... very close to here lived a young quiet boy named Daniel. Daniel was hard working, pleasant to be around and a behind the scenes type child. Daniel grew into a rather short young man; however his bank account grew rather large. When Daniel was finally ready to leave his family and make his place in the world, he bought his first home at 19 years of age. Daniel spent nearly 10 years in pursuit of wealth and seeking the glamorous woman that he would one day paint the white picket fence with. Oh dearest Daniel why do you dedicate so much energy to your own personal gain rather than looking at the common good? The white - keep the buffalo in type fence one day fell over, and Daniel became exhausted in his pursuit to buy all the houses on 47St. Reflipping his way of thinking and living, Daniel entered the seminary and later on the Franciscans in a different pursuit to become a Franciscan priest.
"Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk. 6:21) "Blessed are you as you empty your bank accounts, wallets, purses, and piggy banks for Newman Theological College (NTC) and St. Joseph's Seminary (SJS) yours will be the kingdom of God.
The Beautitudes are unique to Jesus, and they challenge us to evaluate our ways of thinking and living. Philosophers and wise people of Jesus time would not have said such words as found in the beautitudes. The rich, satisfied, laughing and socially acceptable are blessed from a worldly point of view. The poor, hungry, grieving, and outcasts are blessed from Christ's point of view. How can the poor, hungry, grieving, and outcast be blessed - it does not make sense? The poor, hungry, grieving and outcasts all paint a portrait of the Crucified Christ. Christ on the cross was poor, hungry, sorrowful and an outcast, yet Christ was blessed because he followed the will of God the Father. God the Father's response to the poor, hungry, sorrowful, and outcasted Christ was the Resurrection. God the Father's response to suffering was to raise the Son Jesus Christ from the dead.
We may feel that Jesus was being hard on the rich, satisfied, laughing and socially acceptable; however, we need to realize that St. Luke wrote his Gospel to address the social and economically poor issues of his time. If St. Luke were to write his Gospel today then, he would be addressing the issues in Haiti and the homeless on our streets in Canada. The key for the rich, statisfied, laughing and socially acceptable is to recognize their comfort comes from God. "Blessed the one who trusts in the Lord" (Jer. 7:7). Woe to all those who do not realized that all their comforts come from God and "cursed to the one who trusts in mere mortals and makes mere flesh their strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord" (Jer. 17:5). I can relate with the emptiness of relying on my own strenth and the blessings that flow from turining to the Lord.
"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man." (Luke 6:22). A very difficult verse to read and an even more difficult verse to put into practice. Christ prepared us by letting us know that every follower of his would face rejection. Be aware this rejection may come from any person on this earth. I find comfort in Christ's forwarning and a reminder that I need to turn to him for strength and courage.
We are challenged today to evaluate our own lives. Do we value the world or do we value Christ? When I say world here, I am referring to ways contrary to Christ. If we value Christ then we can easily support the men and women of NTC and the seminarians at SJS. For men and women at NTC and the seminarians of SJS desire to serve all of God's people - the rich, the poor, the hungry, the satisfied, the grieving, the laughing, the acceptable and outcasts. They are willing to accept suffering for the sake of Christ. At this Eucharist, may we value more deeply Christ's presence among us and have grateful hearts for all the blessings we receive.
Fr. Daniel Gurnick ofm