The Church of Saint Agnes

1680 Dixie Highway, Fort Wright, KY 41011

The Church of Saint Agnes
1680 Dixie Highway, Fort Wright, KY 41011

Saint Agnes School | Contact Us

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Date: 
Sun, 01/29/2017
Author: 
Rev. Msgr. Donald Enzweiler

“…And they lived happily ever after.  The End!”
 
There’s nothing like a happy ending where everything turns out for the best.
Dangers are overcome.  Fears are faced and conquered.
A quest for justice is survived and is successful.
Two people in love overcome the obstacles keeping them apart.
Struggles are a thing of the past.  There is peace in all the land.
And most importantly, the villains receive their just desserts.
They are conquered, defeated, and will never make trouble again.
 
“They lived happily ever after.”
 
We encounter this phrase at the end of fairy tales and romantic stories.
It is a way to resolve the plot in a work of fiction
so as to leave the audience feeling satisfied at the end.
It touches on some very human expectations and inner notions that say
“Everyone who works hard deserves a happy ending.”
“Those who find true love deserve a happy ending.”
“Those who are good deserve a happy ending.”
“Those who stand up for the good and the right deserve a happy ending.”
 
Fiction is something that is invented by the human imagination.
It is something that is pretend.
 
Jesus Christ is not a fictional character….agreed?
The Word of God, the Christian scriptures, the Bible is not a work of fiction,
it is not pretend, it is not a flight of spiritual fantasy….agreed?
It is a story of faith based on personal encounter with the mystery of God.
 
In today’s gospel, in a way, Jesus says
“…And they lived happily ever after.”
After death ‘they’ lived in eternal happiness; they lived in eternal communion with God.
‘They’ are blessed.
But he’s not dealing with fiction at all.  He’s dealing with reality.
Who is they?  The poor in spirit.  Those who mourn.  The meek.  The merciful.
The clean of heart.  The peacemakers.  The persecuted.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The opposite of a blessing is a curse.
In Jesus’ day God was the source of blessings and curses.
If life was good, if you didn’t have to work because you had enough wealth,
you were blessed by God.
If life was bad, full of sickness and suffering and tragedy, if life was difficult,
you were cursed by God.
The belief was that God blessed those faithful to the law.
And God cursed those who were not faithful, those who sinned.
And those who were blessed could expect to live ‘happily ever after’.
Those who were cursed could expect to live in everlasting torment.
 
When Jesus taught the people on the mountain that day
this was the prevalent mindset.  This is what the people had been taught all their lives.
Jesus knew better.  The truth of God had become distorted.
 
And so he looks to the people, many of whom were considered to be cursed and says
“You know what?  You can live happily ever after.
As a matter of fact, you have a better chance of living happily ever after
than those who consider themselves to be blessed.”
 
Once upon a time, the people of God had gotten overly caught up in the physical realm of life.
God’s blessings and curses were measured physically.
Following the law, being faithful to the law,
was monitored in and through the physical and tangible results.
 
Jesus proclaims a new way of understanding God.
He shifts perspective from the physical realm to the spiritual realm.
The measure of God’s activity and goodness is spiritual, not physical.
Divine blessings and curses are spiritual matters, not physical ones.
Living happily ever after is a spiritual concern, not a physical one.
 
(Props:  box of Cheerio’s and a ruler.)
I can measure the size of this cereal box with a ruler.
(Just as I thought, these boxes are getting smaller and smaller.)
But this ruler cannot give me any information about what the cereal tastes like…
or whether it’s hot or cold, whether it’s fresh or stale.
Only my taste buds can do that.
 
God’s people were taught to use a superficial measure with regards to the divine.
They measured what could be seen on the surface but not the inner reality.
The physical realm of life can tell us something about God.
God created the physical realm after all.
But the true measure of God’s activity, God’s grace, love, forgiveness, mercy…
the true measure is a spiritual measure.
 
 
Let’s shift with Jesus to the spiritual realm of life.
What is the greatest and most important spiritual discovery we can make while on this earth?
It is to discover and acknowledge that we are….poor in spirit.
 
I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
But if we never discover that we are poor in spirit
we may not have a fairy tale ending to life
where we live happily ever after with God.
 
Let me cut to the chase.  I know time is precious.
To be poor in spirit is to be helpless.
Poor in spirit doesn’t have to do
with the presence or absence of material or economical resources.
It doesn’t have to do with one’s IQ or one’s intellect.
It doesn’t have to do with being happy or sad.
It doesn’t have to do with the physical world, per se.
It has to do with the spiritual realm of life.
To discover that you are poor in spirit
is to discover that you are spiritually helpless.
Until we realize that we cannot live the Christian life without the help of God;
until we realize that we need the help of God to overcome evil and sin
until we realize we cannot live happily in this life and ever after without God’s help….
we are not spiritually blessed.  God’s help is God’s blessing.
 
As long as we believe we can navigate the inner spiritual life without help;
as long as we believe we can earn our way to heaven,
as long as we believe we can get through this life on our own
we are not spiritually blessed.  God’s help is God’s blessing.
As long as we are dependent upon ourselves and upon worldly means,
believing we can pull ourselves up with our own spiritual bootstraps
we are not spiritually blessed.  God’s help is God’s blessing.
 
Some people choose to live their lives in cooperation with God.
“You do your thing God.  Let me do my thing.  And let’s stay friends.”
Mutual cooperation is not dependence.  Friendship is not dependence.
Master/servant:  that’s dependence.
Doctor/patient:  that’s dependence.
Teacher/student:  that’s dependence.
Ruler/subject:  that’s dependence.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Let me cut to the chase again:
when you die, feel free to try to make your way to heaven on your own initiative,
according to your own strength and resources,
using whatever you can take with you from the physical world.
I fear, however, without the blessing of God’s help,
you’re not going to get very far.
Resurrection is not something we can do on our own.
Resurrection occurs when God reaches into the darkness of death,
takes our hand, and lifts us up into His Kingdom.
 
Until we see the need for God’s help, accept God’s help…
to mourn, to be meek, to do the good, to have a clean heart, to be a peacemaker,
and to endure persecution…
we are not blessed….as least in the way Jesus describes….
for God’s help in all that we do is God’s blessing.
 
It’s not a fairy tale when I say…
…and God’s people, only with the blessing of God’s help….lived happily ever after.  The End!