6th Sun [C] 2007

Fr. Charles Irvin

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

We all know of people who, whenever they can, debunk religion, particularly Christianity. They tell us that the bible stories are fables, laugh at the story of the Wise Men, the star over Bethlehem, and ridicule belief about a virgin having a baby. These sophisticated despisers of religion take themselves very seriously and think it is their duty to liberate the ignorant masses from the influence of religion and faith. .


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. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?


Spiritual things need to be seen and judged spiritually. If you deny that you have a soul, or a spirit, and 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.


Take a look at those who are rich, those who seem to have everything. 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 these family members 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. It does not come 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 boiling anger. They’re bitter. They can only whine, not weep. “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.


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 similar 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 values, the values of 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. Nor did He create us to be unhappy and miserable, or to live in rejection. Rather God, in Christ Jesus, comes to us as we live in those conditions, conditions that the world has created, not God. 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, 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 at the time of Jesus 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, “Catholics are hung up on sex.” You will be told that you have a “Catholic guilt complex,” that the pope does your 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 is 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 a merely 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. He will yoke Himself to us, be joined with us to pull our loads through life together with Him. Life’s loads are many times too much to bear. But with God, no burden can be unbearable.

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.”