daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Sunday, 6th Sunday of the Year, February 14, 2010
Jer 17:5-8, Ps 1, 1 Cor 15:12,16-20, Lk 6:17,20-26

"And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said: Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven" (Lk 6:20).

This verse begins the beatitudes, Jesus' programmatic sermon where he proclaims the poor blessed, and woe upon the rich. We need to understand what he is saying here and grasp the message of this important sermon, for it is an outline summary of much of his teaching in other places in the gospels. He is proclaiming here a whole way of life, a new way of living. In short, we can say that we have before us in the beatitudes the outline of a whole new way of living in this world, which is a life lived for God with all one's heart. Jesus Christ wants us to live completely and radically for God, leaving all else to live for him alone. God should be our happiness, and we should therefore leave everything else for love of him.

The first disciples did this by leaving their nets, boat, and father, to follow him (Lk 5:11; Mk 1:17-20). Levi did it when "he left everything, and rose and followed him" (Lk 5:28). Jesus blessed his disciples for having done this to serve him completely with all their life and all their time. "And every one who has left houses ... or lands, for my name's sake," Jesus said, "will receive a hundredfold" (Mt 19:29). These are the true poor, to whom belongs the kingdom of God (Lk 6:20). They live for him alone with an undivided heart. Their heart is not divided by the pleasures of the world. Worldly pleasures choke us so that we do not bear fruit, as weeds choke a seed (Lk 8:14). Those that love these pleasures lose their life, while those that hate their life in this world will save it (Jn 12:25). He that loses his life for love of Christ will save his life (Mk 8:35). Such is the true poor person, to whom the kingdom of God belongs.

The purpose of our life is not our own pleasure. We should not try to increase our worldly pleasure. Rather we should sacrifice our life for the love of Christ, losing our life in this world for love of him. We should have only one treasure, and that in heaven, for where our treasure is, there also will our heart be (Mt 6:19-21). We should live a life of austerity and simplicity, renouncing worldly delights. Thus, and only thus, will we serve only one Master, and not two masters, for we cannot serve both God and mammon (Mt 6:24). If we want to possess the kingdom of God, we have to renounce everything of this world, as did the man who discovered the buried treasure. He had to sell all he had to obtain the treasure, which is the kingdom of God (Mt 13:44). The kingdom of God, which we seek, is a pearl of great price, which, Jesus tells us, is only obtainable at the price of all else (Mt 13:45-46). "So therefore," Jesus said, "whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:33). St. Paul said the same thing. "If then you have been raised with Christ," he said, "seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col 3:1-2). About himself, he said that he was dead to the world, crucified to the world, for the love of Christ. "But far be it from me to glory," he said, "except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14).

This is the evangelical poverty proclaimed by Jesus in the beatitudes. This is to live only for God with all one's heart, without division. This is the first commandment of Jesus, to love God with all one's heart, all one's soul, all one's mind, and all one's strength (Mk 12:30). This is to live a simple and austere life for the love of Jesus, for "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24).

Those who ignore these counsels are like a camel trying to get through the eye of a needle (Mt 19:23-24). Woe to them, for they have already had their consolation. "But woe to you that are rich," said Jesus, "for you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:24). Where have they received their consolation? In the delights and pleasures of this world, and thus they have divided their heart. This is the same thing that Abraham said to the rich glutton "who feasted sumptuously every day" (Lk 16:19). From paradise, he told him, "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish" (Lk 16:25). He already received his consolation. We should avoid such a scenario. It is better to live a life of perfection, a life in which we leave everything of this world to find our happiness only in God, not dividing our heart with the pleasures of this world. Therefore Jesus said to the rich young man, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). Truly, those that are first in this world will be last in the kingdom of God, while those that make themselves last in this world for the love of Christ, will be the first in the kingdom of God (Mt 19:30). We should lose all for Christ and consider it rubbish in order to gain Christ (Phil 3:8). "... whatever gain I had," said St. Paul, "I counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (Phil 3:7).

"Blessed are you that hunger now," Jesus said, "for you shall be satisfied" (Lk 6:21), but "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger" (Lk 6:25). Here we see sketched in a few words this entire teaching. "Blessed are you poor," he says, "for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk 6:20), "But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:24). Blessed are those who put this into practice and live a simple, austere life for the love of God in order to love him with all their heart, with a heart that is not divided by the pleasures of this world. They will have an undivided heart, not divided in its love for God. Theirs is the kingdom of God, both now and hereafter.


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