Not As the World Thinks

A homily by Fr. Matthew Habiger, OSB

In the Beatitudes, notice the contradiction between how Jesus view matters, and how the world views them.   Jesus says: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.  But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.”  What Jesus promotes, the world despises.  What Jesus warns against, the world promotes.

We can’t understand Jesus if we only have eyes that see this world, and all that it offers.  And if Jesus, the Son of God, came into our world to teach us the truth, then we can’t understand the truth if we cannot see beyond this world.  Jesus is always pointing to another world, to the Kingdom of God, the home of the saints and angels, who participate in the love and life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  This is heaven, our true home.  Heaven endures forever.  Only God can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

This means that while we are citizens of this world, on earth, we shall always be lacking something, always yearning for something greater.  We shall experience some poverty here, hunger, sorrow and weeping, and sometimes be rejected and hated for placing our confidence in Jesus.  This is what many people did to the prophets, who brought the truth of God’s plan to the people.  When this happens, Jesus tells us to rejoice and leap for joy, “for your reward is great in heaven.”

The world praises worldly success and material goods.  But Jesus says “Woe to you that are rich now, you that are full now, you that laugh now, when all men speak well of you.  That is exactly how the world treated all the false prophets.”

If we follow Jesus as the Way and the Truth, then we must be prepared for some resistance, some opposition.  Robert George gave a talk at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.  He gave the opening school Convocation here two years ago. He said: "The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over.  The days of comfortable Catholicism are past.  It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel.  A price is demanded and must be paid.  There are costs to discipleship – heavy costs that are burdensome and painful to bear.

“The question each of us today must face is this: Am I ashamed of the Gospel? … Am I prepared to pay the price that will be demanded if I refuse to be ashamed, if, in other words, I am prepared to give public witness to the massive politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken?

“Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel – ashamed of the good, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.  These forces insist that the Church’s teachings ae out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted – even hateful.  These currents bring pressure on all of us – and on young Catholics in particular – to yield to this insistence.  They threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good - evil, and what is evil - good.  They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all.”

The contradictions in the Beatitudes are very real.  To be a witness to the Gospel today is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach.  To unashamedly proclaim the Gospel in its fullness is to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one’s standing in polite society.

The world is not doing very well, following its own designs.  Just read the daily news.  The world is looking for true happiness, but doesn’t know where to find it.  Jesus has the answer to their questions.  Jesus is the answer to the question that is every human being.  But the world does not understand what Jesus is saying.  Perhaps the world will find Christianity more credible if it can find men and women who are committed to Jesus, a people who can give credible explanations for what they believe and do.  The world desperately needs men and women who live the Beatitudes, whose lives radiate the serenity and fulfillment of having found the object of their heart’s desire.