I feel so very blessed to journey with our men at Saint John’s Seminary as a Spiritual Director. It is a very privileged and graced ministry. I am especially humbled in the Confessional. It is a grace to witness a soul coming before the Lord in the Sacrament and leave reconciled. God is so good to each of us.
Our work and ministry at the Seminary are to help prepare these young, faith-filled men to serve in the vineyard of the Lord. We journey with the men as they deepen their love for the Lord and embrace the vocation God has for them. It is this primary relationship with Jesus Christ, which is the foundation of all we do, in fact, all that we are as Catholics. Their identity as a son of God comes before the “doing” of ministry. Our readings today perhaps offer us a lens in which to reflect upon the primacy of Christ and His call for each of us.
At first glance of today’s readings, there seems to be a common simple message: Trust in God, do good, avoid the temptations of this world and you can have faith in eternal life. There is a more subtle message in these scripture passages. Rather than as signs of “earning” heaven, perhaps it shows how easily the distractions of good fortune can work as an impediment to our spiritual growth.
It’s hard to confuse the choices presented in today’s Scripture readings. The sharp contrast between the blessings and woes proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah and Jesus offers only two choices: life or death, blessing or woe. Even more important, though, is the fact that our choice must be rooted in the divine virtue of hope. “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord”, we proclaim in today’s Responsorial Psalm.
But are we blessed? Do we hope in the Lord? What do we hope for in life? The answers to these questions lay bare our future: not only in this life, but also in the life to come. The things that we hope for in life make clear what we can hope to expect in our future. Saint Paul in the Second Reading preaches that the Christian can hope only in the resurrected Christ. The Christian centers their life around the Death and Resurrection of the Messiah, holding them as the pattern of their thoughts, words, and actions. In other words, whenever we hope for something in this life, we should hope as Jesus hoped for things during His life.
Today’s Gospel from Luke is Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. This passage is very similar to the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel, although the number of Beatitudes differs, and Luke’s Gospel includes “woes”. Many understand this to be the same event.
The Beatitudes list the kind of people who are called Blessed. It is by no accident that these individuals are all utterly dependent upon God due to their circumstances – the poor, the hungry, the sad, the despised. They are the faithful, they are prayerful people. They are dependent upon God and feel serene. On the contrary are those to whom Jesus says WOE. They have a false sense of security. They are well-off, socially popular and in need of nothing. It is difficult – but not impossible – to hold on to a sense of utter dependence upon God in these situations. Dependence upon God is not a sign of weakness; rather it keeps one in contact with a never-ending source of strength.
The words of the Beatitudes become a way of life when we let them sweep over us as we reconcile ourselves to and find relationship with the poor, the hungry, and those who thirst for righteousness. Through the eight Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us all the virtues and values in life that will result in blessings and rewards.
I’d like to offer a thought from our Holy Father Pope Francis: “Take the Beatitudes and do what the Beatitudes say. And when someone suggests anything else, do not listen: the door is always Jesus and those who enter by that door are not mistaken. Jesus ‘is not only the door: he is the way; he is the road.’ There are many paths that may be easier, but “they are not true.” (Mass at Santa Marta, Rome on April 22, 2013).
May the Beatitudes be a map for us leading to lives of service and mission.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our seminarians and our Mission at Saint John’s Seminary. We are especially grateful for your prayerful and material support. Thank you for the many ways you live out your vocation in generously promoting our common mission to build up the Kingdom of God.
Forming Disciples. Proclaiming Jesus Christ.
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