So, Fr Jim returned from his trip and is back writing his weekly homilies but then my email was not working so I could not receive them on my laptop to post here. I got the email working today so this is the first of two I will post today. Thanks for your patience….reyanna
•Zephaniah 2: 3; 3: 12-13 • I Corinthians 1: 26-32 • Matthew 5: 1-12•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
According to one world census in the year 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents. That means nearly one of every three people on this planet were baptized or claimed to be “Christian.” A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 71% of Americans self-identified as Christian.
Both the census and the survey may provide correct numbers, but I think they are deceptive numbers. I think the number of authentic “Christians” in the world and in our country is far less than reported in census or survey. Let me try to explain by considering the text from Matthew’s gospel proclaimed here today.
In this fifth chapter of Matthew we hear the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. He wants his community to know that if they’ve sincerely embraced the vision Jesus sets before us of what it is to be fully human and fully alive, this is how they will make that vision a reality. In summary Mathew’s Jesus says, “If you want world or personal peace, you will achieve it only by buildingloving relationships with your enemies, not by being more powerful then they are.”
Clearly to be a “Christian” is to embrace an entirely alternative life style. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.” We recognize this is the life for which we yearn. Someday it will be so, but not yet!
Here are a few reasons for my conclusion that the number of authentic “Christians” in the world or our nation is far less than reported in survey or census.
Since medieval times, Christ’s vision/message of “God’s new reality” (the Reign of God) has been replaced by a message of “eternal salvation.” Over the centuries and still today, preachers motivated folks to embrace Christianity as a ticket to heaven. Perhaps since 1776, certainly since Hiroshima, “violence” has been our nation’s primary religion. Think of our national addictions to collegiate and professional sports, like football. Think of our national addiction to military solutions and nuclear weapons. The spirituality of “violence” that permeates our nation simply contradicts Christ’s dream articulated in the Sermon on the Mount.
To be a “Christian” is to embrace an entirely alternative life style. Jesus did not stand up among his people and call them “to be great again.” He message was quite the opposite. His way led to the cross. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.” Our gospel text today is clear. “Authentic” Christians embrace an alternative life style. Our recent election unmask many who claim to be “Christian!”
I spent much of January in Thailand. In Chang Mai I spent time with three women who have studied at the University of Montana. Two of them are indigenous women from villages in the mountains of northern Thailand. Neither claim to be “Christian.” Both are animists. Mimi has delayed her own plans in order to care for her bed-ridden stepmother. I think, without knowing about the Sermon on the Mount, Mimi is embracing and living the Christ way!
“Blessed” are you who have not lost sight of who you are and where you are going. You listen to Christ, are humble, do no wrong. You speak no lies and love your enemies. You look at people and situations with the eyes of love. You know how to live with little, but always trusting in God. You act, work and live moved by compassion. You struggle to make the world more just and decent. You are nonviolent in thought, word and deed. I am grateful that so many people, good, sincere people like you, not only self-identify as “Christians,” but are sincerely trying to embrace the value system summarized in the Sermon on the Mount. Thank you for the authenticity of your faith and your life and the inspiration you give to me.