6th Sun [C] 2004

Fr. Charles Irvin

Jeremiah 17:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20; Luke 6:17,20-26


I want to tell you about a certain professor who loved to debunk religion, particularly Christianity. He would make jokes about bible stories, laugh at the story of the Wise Men, the star over Bethlehem, and about a virgin having a baby. The professor took himself very seriously. He even talked about writing a book that he would entitle “The Insanity of Jesus”.


Let’s be honest. If Jesus were to live among us today, He would be considered to be more than strange. I mean, after all, here He is declaring how happy the poor are, how happy the hungry are, and how happy are those who are weeping. He goes on to say we are happy when we are spurned and rejected, even when we are abused. Then Jesus tells us that those who are rich are going to go hungry, those who are laughing now are going to really hurt, and those who are popular are going to be knocked off their pedestals. Crazy, isn’t it?


Spiritual things need to be seen and judged spiritually. If you deny that you have a soul, a spirit, or live as if it didn’t matter whether or not you have a soul, then you will not have eyes to see things as Jesus sees them. You will be blind, blinded by your own ego, blinded by your own pride, blinded by wanting to be a part of the crowd to which you belong.


Well, let’s take a look at those who are rich. Martha Stewart is rich, Michael Jackson is rich, Donald Trump is rich, and you can think of others, too. Are they happy? Do they live happy lives? Think of the stories you’ve heard about what happens to families when their very rich father or grandfather dies. Isn’t there a lot of infighting among the family members? A lot of jealously, envy, and even hatred? Some of them never speak to each other again for the rest of their lives. Whoever said having lots of money makes you happy? Happiness comes from what you do with your money, not with how you earn it or keep it.


Then there’s hunger. For what do you hunger? Fame? Popularity? Attention? Sex? Booze? Well, what DO you hunger for? Maybe you’re eating spiritual junk food and need to switch to more nutritious food, food that satisfies your heart and soul rather than your sensual nature. Do you want to fill your belly, or do you want to satisfy your soul?


Weeping. There are those among us who never cry. It’s not because they won’t – it’s because they’ve managed to squash down their feelings to the point they can’t really feel anything at all. They have no passion, except perhaps anger. They’re bitter. They can only whine, not cry. “Why me?” they whine. “Poor me,” they complain. But weep? They’ve forgotten how. They have no feeling for anyone else but themselves.


Being spurned and rejected is a terrible thing. Of all of the different hurts and pains that can beset us I think bring rejected is one of the most painful – perhaps THE most painful of all hurts and sufferings that come our way.


As a young boy rejection, not being chosen, not being wanted, was what caused me the greatest of suffering. No doubt, many of you have experienced such feelings. There’s a terrible loneliness that settles into a soul that has known a lot of rejection. It leads to feelings of inferiority, feelings of never amounting to much, of never making a difference in other people’s lives.


So what is Jesus telling us here?


First of all He is giving us a value system that is radically set over and against this world’s value, the values of the worldly, those who are unconcerned about God or what God expects of us. Secondly, Jesus is establishing a connection between himself and his followers.


To understand this connection we first must realize that God did not create us to live in poverty, to be unhappy and miserable, or to live in rejection. Rather God comes to us in Christ Jesus. And where is Christ Jesus to be found? Among those who have received life’s cruelest blows. He joins himself to those whom life has harshly treated and He is preparing his disciples to experience this world’s rejections.  Later on Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves, for my yoke is easy, my burden light.” He yokes himself to us in carrying our burdens and pulling our loads.


Those who appear to be happy in this world end up by having only what this world has to offer them, nothing more. Those who are rich, those who are satisfied, those who have their bellies filled, and those who have popularity among the worldly have only what this world offers them and permits them to have and nothing more.  They think they have no need for God and for what God can offer them. For them, Christ is nuts, crazy, out of it, and not to be taken seriously.


What was true back then remains true today. If you are a Catholic who takes his or her faith seriously, if you are a person of faith and you openly live by your faith, you will be called a “religious fanatic.” You will be told that “Catholics are hung up on sex.” You will be told that you have a “Catholic guilt complex,” that the pope does you thinking for you, and all that priests want is your money. You will be told all sorts of crazy things because the people making these sorts of statements think you are crazy.


There’s no doubt about it, Jesus has a system of values that are contrary to this world’s values. The only question that remains is “Are you crazy enough to accept them and live by them?” Are you crazy enough to admire Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s life, beliefs, and faith? Are you crazy enough to believe that God offers you a happiness that this world can never give?


The Sermon on the Mount is not just pretty poetry. It does not offer us merely a sentimental religion. The Sermon on the Mount presents us with high standards along with the promise that God will be with us no matter how tough life gets for us. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” Jesus said, “for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves, for my yoke is easy, my burden light.”


It’s easy to laugh at Jesus and call him insane. It’s hard to take Jesus’ way, truth and life seriously. But if we do, we have his promise that He will be with us and that our reward in heaven will be out of this world.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”