Friday, August 1, 2008

Reflection on 15th Sunday on Ordinary Time --- Year A


Isaiah 55:10-11
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-23

Brothers and sisters in the faith,

Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!
How blessed we truly are to be able to hear the Word of God proclaimed here!
How blessed we truly are to be able to profess the true faith in the blessed Trinity!
How blessed we are to belong to the flock of Jesus Christ and to share his body and blood in the Eucharist!
How blessed we truly are to offer our Father in heaven the perfect sacrifice of the Mass!
How blessed we are to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God – as we heard in the second reading.

“The knowledge of the Kingdom has been granted to us”

I could go on…

How blessed and privileged we are to be in this Cathedral and [let me use the image of Pope Benedict XVI from his homily in New York]. Look at these magnificent stain glass windows. They symbolize the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith. We are part of something spectacular, something beautiful and impressive. If we went outside and looked at these stain glass windows, we would not be able to see anything --- in fact, seen from outside, these windows look totally dark, gloomy, and dim. But we are not outside – we are inside and we can see their beauty and magnificence.

Blessed indeed are our eyes because they see.

In the Gospels Jesus frequently used the word “Blessed” in exhorting his disciples. He wanted them to realize and take to heart their special position of being his disciples. It was not something they should take for granted. Jesus wants us to feel the same way.

The Greek word for blessed is makarios and is used 14 times in the Gospel of Matthew. The word is very rich in meaning. Makarios means blessed, happy, fortunate and lucky. Now, in order for us to better understand the meaning of this word and its significance, allow me to explain its meaning in the context of Jesus’ times. Let’s put this word in historical – cultural context.

In ancient Greek times, makarios, referred to the gods. The blessed ones were the gods. They had achieved a state of happiness and contentment in life that was beyond all cares, labors and even death. The blessed ones were beings who lived in some other world away from the cares and problems and worries of ordinary people. To be blessed, you had to be God.

Secondly, makarios referred to the wealthy people, the upper crust of society, the rich people. Only they were considered to be blessed, makaroioi.

With that background we see that we have, what I called, linguistic revolution in the Gospel today --- Jesus takes the word makarios and turns it upside down, changes its meaning. According to Our Savior, blessed and happy are not those who are wealthy and rich and powerful or those who pertain to be gods. Instead, truly blessed are those who hear the Word of God and respond to it by bringing fruit. Truly blessed – makarios - are those who respond to the LIVING Word of God with open hearts and strive to live in the relationship with God.

Therefore the question that we ought to ask ourselves is: how much do I realize how blessed I truly am being able to hear the Word of God?

A Chicago novelist, John Powers, wrote a book called, The Unoriginal Sinner. It is about a man named Tim Conroy. He came from a family of practicing Catholics – going to church, receiving sacraments, praying --- but never being really fascinated with the faith, never being on fire with the faith. Even though he was inside the cathedral, he did not notice its beauty. Instead, he often looked at the stain glass windows from outside – kind of dark and shadowy. He did not have courage to come in and invest himself totally with God. He has heard the word of God so many times but it did not have any effect on his life. He was kind of bored with the faith --- it did not do much for him.

All of us feel like Tim, at times. By the time we are 25 years old (if we practice regularly) we have heard God’s word read and explained a thousand times. What kind of soil have we provided for that word? Do we even ever feel blessed and excited about the opportunity of being able to hear the word?

Unless we realize how much God has blessed us and how lucky we are to be able to hear the Word and receive it with joy. Only when we do that, we will be able to bring fruit --- hundred, sixty or thirtyfold.

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