By Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral 2/16/2019
Jeremiah 17:5-8 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20 Luke 6:17, 20-26
Praised Be Jesus Christ Good morning everyone.
As I read and reread today’s readings I heard a common thread:
God is telling us that we must trust in Him.
*“A television program before the opening
of the 1988 Winter Olympics featured blind skiers
being trained for slalom skiing, impossible as that sounds.
Paired with sighted skiers, the blind skiers were taught on the flats
how to make right and left turns.
When they had mastered that, they were taken to the slalom slope,
where their sighted partners skied behind them shouting
‘Left!’ and ‘Right!’ as needed.
As they obeyed the commands, they were able to negotiate
the course and cross the finish line.
They were completely dependent on the sighted skier’s words;
It was either complete trust or catastrophe.”
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God told the Israelite people,
and us today, not to put our trust in human beings or
in strength in the flesh or to turn away from God.
Jeremiah says that THEN we would be like mere bushes
in the desert poorly rooted in barren soil.
We do not want to be like that.
We are to trust the Lord, and THEN we will be like
well-watered trees that can flourish even in a drought.
St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians was telling them,
and us, that we should trust in the Lord,
that we should believe in His resurrection.
For His resurrection is the means by which we are raised from sin
to eternal life with Him.
In the selection from the Gospel according to St. Luke,
Jesus cites four human conditions:
poverty, hunger, sadness and rejection.
Jesus says these are “Blessed” conditions that will be relieved,
and that those suffering these conditions
will be greatly rewarded in heaven.
I interpret this to mean that they will be saved
through their trust in God.
In the second part of that reading Jesus said “Woe” to those
who trust in their richness, their being fully satisfied with food,
their happiness and their being spoken of well.
The implication of the “Woe” is that their misplaced trust
in worldly things will not bring them to the reward of heaven.
So we might ask, why did Jesus choose the first four to be “Blessed”
and warned their counterparts with the word “Woe?”
As I see it, the first four were “Blessed”, because, persons
in these conditions, had little in the world
in which to place their trust.
The poor have always had little reason to truly trust
that they will be provided with what they lack.
The hungry have had little real trust that they could depend on
someone to provide their daily meals.
that guarantee is there that there will be someone
to lift the spirits of the sorrowful
or come to the aid of those who were hated?
They are “Blessed” by that fact they often have no one on their side
but the Lord; no one or nothing else
in which to put their trust but the Lord.
On the other hand the rich, those who have plenty of food,
those who are happy and those liked by all,
have little or no reason to have to trust in others.
Jesus was warning them that no need for others
could lead to no need for God, no need to trust in God.
Let’s be sure we are clear here:
just because one is poor, hungry, sad or hated
does not guarantee a place in heaven.
But their less reason to trust someone or something of the world,
may make them more inclined to put their trust in God.
Just because one is rich, fully satisfied, happy or well thought of
does not mean that person is doomed to hell.
Jesus’ warning is that a person in these conditions
may find no reason to need to trust anyone of anything
including the Lord.
That person has it all together on his or her own.
We all know that our salvation, our joining God in heaven,
is the bottom line.
Poverty or riches, hunger or food aplenty, sadness or happiness,
being scorned or being praised,
none of these alone or in any combination will assure us
of meeting our goal of heaven.
We will be welcomed to the heavenly banquet through our holiness.
“Holiness?”, you might say. Yes, holiness. What is holiness?
I once gave a talk on holiness and used this definition:
“Holiness is doing what God wants you to do.”
By now you might be thinking,
“How is holiness related to our trust in God?”
Stick with me.
A couple weeks ago, I noticed a stack of books on the cabinet
by the reconciliation room in the back of our Cathedral.
The title of the books caught my eye:
The title was “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity”
What would that lie be? Some propaganda against Christianity?
“What enemy of the Church left these here?”
That is what I thought until I looked at the author’s name:
He writes and publishes books on the Catholic faith
and his company the Dynamic Catholic Institute in Erlanger
occasionally donates books to local parishes.
Certainly he is not an enemy of the Church.
I took a copy of the book and have been reading it.
Matthew Kelly says that this greatest lie in Christianity is this:
Holiness is impossible.
With all of the worldly things, persons, fads, whatever,
to tempt us to sin, many regard holiness as impossible.
Matthew Kelly says that rather than thinking of holiness
as a property of our lives in an overall sense,
we should think of our lives a series of opportunities
for Holy Moments.
**He defines a Holy Moment as
“a moment when you open yourself to God.
You make yourself available to Him.
You set aside whatever you feel like doing in that moment,
and you set aside self-interest, and for one moment
you simply do what you prayerfully believe
God is calling you to do in that moment.”
Each weekend most of us would rather spend all the time
in rest and relaxation at home.
But we hear God telling us to get to Mass
and we respond by taking the time to come to Mass.
Just our coming here is a Holy Moment
aside from all the other Holy Moments we can experience
while we are here at Mass.
You see, I just proved that holiness is possible.
Many saints would admit that they did not live holy lives,
lives in which everything they did
was what God was calling them to do.
They lived lives of many Holy Moments and we can do the same.
**A nurse was on sick leave and her time of paid leave was up,
but her illness continued.
If she missed more work, she would not be paid – no income.
One coworker suggested to another nurse
that they might start a “Go Fund Me” page on the web.
Another nurse had a better suggestion:
Since the ill nurse worked three shifts each week,
they could each take one of those shifts as an extra shift
so that the ill nurse could continue to be paid.
What a Holy Moment for each nurse
covering one shift each week for their ill coworker!
It was truly a beautiful thing for each of them to be doing this.
John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
It must have been quite a joy for these three nurses.
The ill nurse was out for three years.
Holy moments are truly moments of joy;
moments when we realize that
“Hey, we are really doing what God wants us to do.”
In order to experience these Holy Moments
we must be listening to what God is telling us.
Furthermore, we must trust in what we are hearing.
We must trust that it is God speaking to us.
We must trust that we can do what God is telling us to do.
*Recall the story of the blind skiers.
It is a wonderful metaphor for the Christian life.
In this world, we are in reality blind about what course to take.
God is right here with us like the sighted ski partners.
He is the only one for us who is truly sighted.
His Word gives us the direction; we need to finish the course.
*From “750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers. Teachers and Writers, Craig Brian Larson and the Leadership Journal, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002 p592
**From “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity”, Matthew Kelly, Wellspring, North Palm Beach, FL, 2018 pp 35-36