Saturday, February 13, 2010

On Eagle's Wings

HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, February 14, 2010:


By a show of hands, can I ask how many of you would like to be rich? How many of you would enjoy a nice, delicious meal? How many of you like to be happy and have people say nice things about you? And how about the converse – how many of you would like to be poor? Hungry? Weeping? Hated? I’m sure we’d get similar results no matter where we asked those questions. And yet, Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are now poor…who are now hungry… who are now weeping… 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! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.” And what are His words for those who are rich, well fed, well thought of? “Woe to you!”

So, what is going on here? The way this sounds on the surface, God’s desire for us is to be on the streets, hungry, weeping and despised. That’s what it means to be blessed by God. So, if this is true, we should be thrilled with the ongoing recession and difficult economic times. Every jobless report means more Christians for the Kingdom! A downturn in the stock market means the Kingdom of God is at hand! We know that Jesus is regularly reaching out to lift people out of their poverty, out of their sorrow, out of their illness, out of their misery, so there must be another way to understand this passage.

Let me tell you a story. There’s an old legend about a young Native American boy. One day the boy found an eagle’s egg on the ground. He brought it home and placed it in a nest of chicken eggs. Before long, the eaglet hatched along with a brood of chicks. The eagle grew up with the chickens not knowing it was different. It scratched in the dirt for seeds the way the chickens did. It cackled the way the chickens did. And it thrashed it wings and flew only a few feet off the ground the way the chickens did. Then one day the eagle looked up into the clear blue sky. There is saw the most marvelous sight. It saw a magnificent bird soaring majestically through the sky on two big golden wings. The little eagle’s breath was taken away. Excitedly, it called out to an older chicken, “What kind of bird is that?” “That’s an eagle,” the older chicken replied. “But forget about it! You could never soar like that in a million years.”

I think this story helps us to get at what Jesus is trying to tell us in the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes in our modern world we can get the feeling that we are unimportant. We can get the feeling that we are just another consumer listed on someone’s computer. If you’ve ever felt this way; if you’ve ever felt that the world is passing you by and not even noticing you – today’s Gospel is for you. The Sermon on the Mount wants to tell us that in spite of all of the contrary messages that the world is sending us – we are in fact important. Jesus speaks perhaps the most famous words of His preaching career to remind us of this essential fact – we are important. We are made in God’s image and we are destined to live with God forever. And if that doesn’t make us important, then I don’t know what does.

We need this message more today than ever before. The world tells us that we are like a box of tissues – disposable. The world tells us that we are like an old paper cup – recyclable. The world tells us that we are like a spare part – expendable. And after a while, we can begin to believe what the world tells us.

Just like the chicken to the young eagle, we are told, “Forget about Jesus Christ and His teachings. He is the Son of God. His world is totally different from our world. You could never be like Him. You could never soar the way He did – not in a million years!” But Jesus gives us a totally different message. In John’s Gospel, He says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” St. Paul had these words of Jesus in mind when he wrote to the Corinthians, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world…to reduce to nothing those who are something.”

And this brings us right back to the Sermon on the Mount. Notice the present tense that Jesus uses – blessed are you who are poor, hungry or weeping NOW. In other words, this will not last forever, you will be blessed in my sight, your sadness will be turned to joy. And so, to the hundreds of poor people sitting on the slope of that mountain – whom the world considered disposable – Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are now poor; for the Kingdom of God is yours.” To the hundreds of hungry people sitting on the slope of that mountain – whom the world considered recyclable – Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.” And to the hundreds of sorrowing people sitting on the slope of that mountain – whom the world considered expendable – Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.”

And so, my friends, to those of us to whom the world says, “Too bad, you poor, you are disposable; too bad, you hungry, you are recyclable; too bad, you weeping, you are expendable; too bad, you people of faith, you will never soar,” Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad…The Kingdom of God is yours!” The world cannot limit you, define you, reject you, ignore you. You will be blessed in me.

Jesus can take whatever our challenges are; whatever our struggles may be; what ever problems we may have – and He will turn them into Beatitude, into blessing – and we will soar in His sight to heights we never dreamed possible.

Let me end with a poem by Amado Nervo that names well the spirit of the Beatitudes:

The world told me I was only a spark,
But Jesus taught me that I am a fire.
The world told me that I was only a string,
But Jesus taught me that I am a lyre.

The world told me I was only an anthill,
But Jesus taught me that I am a mountain.
The world told me I was only a drop,
But Jesus taught me that I am a fountain.

The world told me I was only a feather,
But Jesus taught me that I am a wing.
The world told me I was only a begger,
But Jesus taught me that I am a king.

Blessed are you! “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.”

May God give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. This message was very encouraging, thank you father.

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