Monday, January 29, 2024: The Beatitudes - We stand with You
Dear Readers: This is the homily I prepared for yesterday's Emmaus celebration. It's all about living the Beatitudes.
It starts with the definition of a "framing story," a story which gives people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives… how about the Sermon on the Mount?
So let’s start with the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes: They all begin with the word Blessed: In this story we ask ourselves -- what does Jesus intend by using this paradoxical word? In trying to understand the focus of the beatitudes I think it’s important to consider the meaning and the intent of this first word which we translate ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’.
In Greek the first word is MAKAROI – which helps us understand people enjoying a deep inner joy, a lasting spiritual experience, like the inner joy that continues to grow deeper as life experience grows. It is an experience of life at its best and a call to do something about it!
Perhaps a more honest translation would be: get up, go ahead, and do something.
Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes which are the essence of all his teaching and his life. They are the living heart of our faith The Beatitudes can be read passively and through the years they have been watered down and have become wishes for the poor. Kind of like how politicians send wishes and prayers after a mass shooting. So many empty words.
But Jesus was a revolutionary in his time and the Beatitudes are dangerous. They provide a road map for us for what John Lewis called good trouble, necessary trouble. And here in this room we are blessed to live with a community of people that strives to live them.
Jesus had the idea that we could actually live his Sermon on the Mount. – that instead of sending wishes and prayers we actually stand with our bodies in joyful trouble to advocate for the poor, the broken and the misunderstood – much as Dan Vrooman, Jim and JoAnn did a few days ago as they joined with Jews and Muslims in Sacramento to protest the war in Gaza. Much as Rosemary and Joe have done so beautifully and so consistently with their grandson.
So instead of Blessed are the humble in spirit, we affirm that we stand with you, the humble in spirit: for your open hearts will be rewarded with radical kinship. We stand with You humble ones: for you shall learn to laugh, share your life stories and be listened to listened to and seen. You will create a joyful disturbance within all of us so that we seek to become meek like you. John Lewis in speaking to Black families in the South said "You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light."- John Lewis
We stand with You when your hearts break and when you grieve: for you will find comfort with your sisters and brothers and blessed communities where there is hope. We here at Emmaus will comfort you -- as Nancy, Bob, Sharon, Cathy, Peter and Marcie have brought comfort and peace to family members going though hard times.
We stand with You migrants, those who flee drug cartels, gang violence, war and persecution. It should tell us something about her home country that a mother is willing to travel 2,000 miles with her 4-month old son to come here. How we welcome the stranger when she arrives tells us something about ourselves and our beliefs: Linda, Pat, our friend Mary Waskowiak who is working at the border, Jim and Dorothy Keck. Ed and Mary – you have joyfully welcomed the stranger and listened intently to their struggles. Let’s also remember MaryBeth Gallagher and our friends from MaryKnoll who have become strangers in strange lands and put themselves in a position in order to accompany people on the margins.
We stand with You Women - especially you who have been intimidated, told to be quiet, threatened with firing for telling the truth. Your hunger and thirst for justice will make a new world in which all of us share equally in preparing the banquet of peace. And here we acknowledge Victoria and Patti and so many others who have suffered slights at the hands of a clerical, hierarchical culture. You have shared so many gifts and so much wisdom… and we are in your debt.
We stand with You who suffer for your very identities: gay men, lesbian women, transgender people, queer people, bisexual people, people of color who suffer persecution on a daily basis who are so often forced onto the edge of hope. We celebrate the Divine in you. Yours is the kindom of heaven.
We stand with You who show loving mercy: for you shall obtain mercy and empower us to be non-violent and merciful. Think Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison and forgave his jailers. Imagine 27 years in prison. “ He famously said: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.” ― Nelson Mandela
We stand with You who listen to the earth and who celebrate all life, from rocks and streams to plants and animals and the wonderful diversity of our planet and the cosmos. You challenge the status quo and seek to save our earth and bring new perceptions to light. Steve Lyman, Kay Lambert and all those who study the earth and work for its transformation in peace.
We stand with You peacemakers and those who teach non-violence in our prisons, and in our world. We call you children of God. And we recognize the work of Alice who has spent so many days in prison.
We stand with all who want to transform our world by accompanying the poor, walking with them, listening to their stories. Think Dorothy Day and Denise Dixon. They go hand in hand. Dorothy Day famously said: “Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily. The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us. Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.
We stand And finally there is the gift of our fearless community
Think Oscar Romero: A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — what gospel is that?