Monday, March 3, 2008

Ordinary Time - 4th Sunday

Ordinary Time – 4th Sunday
Stewardship Sunday
February 3, 2008

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
1 Cor 1:26-31
Matthew 5:1-12a

Blessed are they.
This is probably the most famous passage from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. The Beatitudes. Nine blessings given by Jesus for these attitudes and actions of his followers.

This is at once both familiar and also greatly misunderstood.

For example – let’s look at the first Beatitude – Blessed are the poor in spirit. Why would poverty of spirit be a blessing? What does that mean?

I would like to submit to you that all of these beatitudes are a sequence describing the process of conversion for believers. Illumination leads to interior convictions which leads to charitable action for the sake of the gospel.

Let’s take a look and see how this sequence works.

The first three have to do with attitude.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. What this means is the believer’s first realization of his or her own poverty of spirit. We can not save ourselves from sin solely by our own works. This is the first realization of the futility of our own actions apart from God. We are commanded to love God and love our neighbor, but we have to understand that apart from the grace of God we can not do it. So when we realize that we need God to save us and we ask for it, then something wonderful happens. A blessing comes. The kingdom of heaven is yours. But you’ve got to know your poverty of spirit first.

When we truly know our poverty of spirit, then another blessing comes.
Blessed are they who mourn. Mourning naturally follows the realization of poverty of spirit. This is sorrow for our sins and for the sins of the world. It is a good thing to feel bad about sin. To mourn. For when we mourn our sins and when we go to God, then we receive the promise. We will be comforted. And the blessing comes.

Next comes meekness. Who of us can be prideful if we experience poverty of spirit and the sorrow that follows? Meekness is being grounded in the solid reality of the human condition and our utter need for God. And when we are meek, then the blessing comes. The meek shall inherit the earth.

The next four have to do with actions.

Let’s list them now.
blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Blessed are the merciful
Blessed are the clean of heart
Blessed are the peacemakers

See here how the experience of initial conversion leads each believer to good works. Here we can see clearly how Jesus teaches that we are saved by faith and works. Works of righteousness, mercy, purity, and peace are the natural expressions of those who profess faith in Jesus. And they will receive the blessings. They will be satisfied by God. They will receive mercy. They will see God. And they will be called Children of God.

The final two are about the believer’s encounter with evil in the world.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. To persevere in goodness the face of overwhelming evil is not easy. But those who hold to their faith and continue in their good works are promised the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. These are the folks who are actively and vigorously persecuted because of their faith. They suffer greatly and many become martyrs. Jesus’ blessing for them is that they will receive a great reward in heaven.

So you can see here the sequence of the Beatitudes.
Blessings come with the first steps of our faith. Our interior reality changes when we recognize sin, mourn our sin, and become humble before God.
Blessings come with the works that are the natural expression of faith. Our interior reality will lead to our work to change the world.
And blessings come when the conviction of faith remains true despite temptation and persecution.

So, good people. Let us consider our calling by considering the works that come from our faith. As promised last Sunday, today is stewardship renewal. Let’s take a few minutes to consider our blessings and how we will express them in the ministry of this parish.

For our guests this (evening / morning), spend a few minutes in prayer for the parishioners of Annunciation as they recommit to the stewardship of time, talent, and treasure.

Last week all parishioners at mass were given a time and talent directory in order to become familiar with the ministry activities of the parish for this year. Hopefully, you had a chance to think about what you want to do in the parish this year. Today you received an intention form to fill out during mass. Please take a moment to write in your personal information at the top of the sheet and at the bottom of the sheet. We will use this to update our parish census.

Now, look at the bottom right hand corner where it mentions the Sunday offering. Since ministry can’t happen without financial support, let’s fill this in. We will use the figures you give us to establish the budget for next year.
If you are wondering what figure to put in there, then consider your gift by the percentages. If you give 5% of your income to the parish and then 5% of your income to other charities, then you will fulfill the biblical tithe. Also, please know that we keep your information private. But we need to know your intention so that we can figure out how to support the parish ministries.

Now let’s look at the big middle section. These are all the parish ministries happening this year. Please take a moment to fill in your commitment to either continue in a ministry or to begin in a new one. If you wish to resign from a ministry, please indicate that as well. Sometimes it is good make changes every so often.

Now that you have filled this out, you may turn it in with the today’s collection. If you need more time, then please feel free to take the time you need.

Dear people, blessed are you. Let’s build the kingdom of God.

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