Encouraged by God’s Encouragement to Encourage Others, 10th Monday (I), June 12, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass for Persecuted Christians
June 12, 2017
2 Cor 1:1-7, Ps 34, Mt 5:1-12

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Yesterday, June 11, was the feast of St. Barnabas, but it was suppressed because it was a Sunday and we were celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. But because of my devotion to this “Son of Encouragement,” I would very much like to ponder St. Paul’s words in today’s first reading, in which he uses the word “encourage” nine different times. He describes how God encourages us in our afflictions precisely so that, having received his strength at those times, we might credibly be able to encourage others with the same encouragement — namely God’s — we have received. St. Paul received this encouragement various times as we see in the Acts of the Apostles and his letters. Right after this passage, he describes how his afflictions were crushing him. But God came to his aid and helped him to see that “If we are afflicted,
    it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.” What we prayed in the Psalm happens often: “When the poor one called out, the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him.” God permits us to suffer so that we might receive his encouragement and then be better equipped to share that blessing with others. That’s part of the good that God wants to bring out of the evil he permits us to endure (since to prevent absolutely our suffering evil would eliminate others’ free will). I think by this point we are all able to relate to this point, that if we’ve suffered, for example, a physical illness and recovered, we’re able to encourage those suffering the same illness; if we’re gone through a particularly grueling academic program, we can help those who are beginning;  if we’ve had to endure the dark night of the senses in prayer, we can help those who are now just entering into it. God encourages us in our circumstances and helps us to encourage others. His encouragement is both a gift and a task.
  • We see how Jesus similarly seeks to encourage others in today’s Gospel in sharing the Beatitudes. I normally prefer to preach on the Beatitudes in a straightforward way, contrasting Jesus’ notion of the path happiness from the world’s and using it as an introduction to the entire Sermon on the Mount on which we’ll be pondering for the next almost three weeks. But we can look at it under the aspect of Jesus’ encouragement from within the encouragement he has received from the Father. An important key that unlocks the Beatitudes comes at the very end of them. In many presentations of the Beatitudes, it’s listed that there are “eight” of them, but under this frame it seems as if Jesus is repeating numbers seven and eight with different words: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness” and “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.” But another way of looking at it is that in the “eighth,” Jesus is summarizing what he said in all seven that came previously: when we live any of the Beatitudes, we suffer for them; we are often insulted, calumniated, and can even be persecuted. Jesus, who enfleshed all of the Beatitudes, experienced this first hand and wanted to encourage any of his followers who was enduring similar ridicule to remember that what seemed like a curse to the world was actually a blessing. Those who are poor in spirit are often mocked because they convict the world of its addiction to money and its avarice. Those who mourn because of sensitivity to suffering and to sin are treated as oxygen suckers. Those who are meek are teased as if they were week because they don’t play by the rules of using their strength to overpower others or retaliate. Those who seek holiness are derided because they’re “holier than thous.” Those who are merciful are just bleeding hearts who let others take advantage of them. Those who are pure in heart are mocked as prudes. Those who are peacemakers are treated as if they are utopians who stupidly don’t grasp the way the real, real world works. Those who are persecuted are the most foolish of all, suffering for the faith when either God doesn’t exist, or doesn’t care about moral issues, or conscience or anything similar. If we live as persons of the beatitudes, if we seek to conform ourselves with Jesus in these ways, we will suffer for it. Jesus, however, wants us to know that we are blessed in all of those circumstances and they will lead, not just in eternity, but in some way here in this world, to enter God’s kingdom, to deep consolation and fulfillment, to possessing the earth, to seeing God, to being called his children, to great heavenly reward.
  • Today as we celebrate a Votive Mass for our persecuted brothers and sisters, we pray that they may be encouraged by the Lord who himself suffered first for them, that their example may encourage us to heroism in our living of the faith and our defending them and others, and that our example of solidarity may console them to grasp that they are not suffering alone and we hope to share with them eternal life.
  • Every morning Jesus seeks to encourage us by sharing with us the Good News and applying it to our day-to-day existence, and by entering our lives with his strength, to help us conform our life to his poverty of spirit, sensitivity, purity, hunger, desires for peace, meekness and humility, and endurance in persecution. We taste and see his goodness in the Eucharist! We ask him who has spoken to us and is about to feed us to help us bring this same encouragement, as men and women of the Beatitudes, out to our world that desperate needs this encouragement to experience grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 2 COR1:1-7

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Timothy our brother,
to the Church of God that is at Corinth,
with all the holy ones throughout Achaia:
grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement,
who encourages us in our every affliction,
so that we may be able to encourage
those who are in any affliction
with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us,
so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
If we are afflicted,
it is for your encouragement and salvation;
if we are encouraged,
it is for your encouragement,
which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Our hope for you is firm,
for we know that as you share in the sufferings,
you also share in the encouragement.

Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Alleluia MT 5:12A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad;
for your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is 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.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”