Church of the Beatitudes on the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. Photo taken while Fr. Chris was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land November 2022.
In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that the blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.
These are not the usual characteristics of someone we would call blessed, yet Jesus tells us that these are the ones who will inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Recently, I watched the movie "A Man Named Otto" starring Tom Hanks, and it reminded me of the message in today's Gospel. Otto, the main character, is a grump who is struggling with the loss of his wife and is deeply unhappy with his life. He finds himself constantly nitpicking and enforcing the rules of his neighborhood, alienating those around him.
However, as the movie progresses, we see Otto slowly change as he is befriended by his new neighbors, Marisol and Tommy. Through their kindness and love, Otto begins to let go of his anger and bitterness, and starts to open his heart to others. He starts to see the beauty in life and in the people around him. In the end, he finds new hope and learns to forgive himself and others.
This movie is a reminder that love changes people! It starts by allowing God to love us then sharing that love with those around us…especially with those who are difficult to love.
That means reaching out to those who are struggling and offering them a helping hand, just as Marisol and Tommy did for Otto. We can also take time to reflect on our own blessings, the things in our lives that bring us joy and fulfillment, and find ways to share that joy with others.
That’s what a church should look like. We are called to be a church with an open heart, welcoming all people, no matter their background or circumstances.
This message is echoed in a homily Pope Francis gave at the Vatican last Sunday. He reminded us that God's mercy is for everyone and that the word of God is meant to heal and raise people up, and our duty as a community of believers is to actively spread the light of the word to everyone we meet.
He said, "Place your life under the Word of God. All of us, even the pastors of the church, are under the authority of the Word of God. Not under our own tastes, tendencies and preferences."
What he’s saying here is that the Word of God molds us, converts us, and calls us to be united in the one Church of Christ.
So let us ask ourselves, where does our life find direction? From the many "words" we hear, from politicians, the evening news, people who lack faith? Or from the Word of God that guides and purifies us?
In the spirit of the Beatitudes, let us reflect on what material things, ways of thinking, and attitudes we need to let go of in order to truly say "yes" to following Jesus and living a better, blessed, and happy life.
Let us commit ourselves to being a church that is open to all, a church that actively spreads the word of God, and a church that is always reaching out to heal and raise up those in need.
May the word of God guide us and mold us to be more meek and pure of heart, to be peacemakers, and to be more merciful so that one day we all may inherit the kingdom of God.