Preparing for dinners and parties is actually a part of the party. In cleaning the house, in buying the fixings, in decorating, we might be thinking as well of those who will be attending.
In cleaning up after they all finally leave, we might reflect on conversations, stories, spillings, new relationships which were also parts of the parties. So the three elements of a celebration are really one. The dinner of course is central, but it is led up to and lived from by the inviters and invitees alike.
Each moment of our lives we are living from the most recent gathering of the Eucharistic Community from which we were sent to “love and serve the Lord.” We were with others who went their merry, blest ways. We are always sent and always in the process of returning to celebrate the saving love of Jesus Christ. We are sent to be a blessing and be available to all the ways we are graced through our merry-blest days. We pray with the events, persons, spillings too, which are our daily experiences. At the Offering Prayer we put on the Altar Table all that has been offered us and we wait again to receive His Sacred Presence which makes us a sacred present for all to whom we are sent.
The verses which open this chapter from the prophet Zephaniah are a caution about a coming day of God’s anger. We hear the comforting words of the prophet who speaks with an instruction about how to avoid this anger and its destructions.
Humility and a sense of justice would be a safe shelter for those nations upon whom God’s anger is to descend. A “remnant” in Israel will be given to the rest of Israel and all the nations so that by the way they live, prosperity will be granted. They shall do no wrong, be humble, lowly. They will not lie nor be deceitful. By their manner of living, life will be given to them and a message through them.
This is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time until June 1st. It is the last Sunday before Lent begins. It is also (in our part of the world) Super Bowl Sunday in which two professional football teams will athletically decide who’s king of the football hill. For the dedicated followers of these teams, this is not an ordinary Sunday. For the followers of the non-participants, Lent cannot come fast enough. For the winners, Easter has already happened. For the non-enthusiast, the million-dollar commercials will be all that is interesting.
For the church this is kind of a “Super-Bowl” Sunday as well. The Gospel for this day is a pre-game pep rally. Jesus is talking directly to His first followers and telling them about the seven major characteristics of those who will victoriously follow Him. These verses are taken from the beginning of the three-chapter section of Matthew’s Gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount. These seven staples of the “Holy Team” are known as the “beatitudes” and Jesus will walk and live these words throughout the pages of the rest of Matthew’s Gospel. As for us, they form a prayerful framework for our Lenten prayer and conversion. It would be helpful to take each one of the seven and pray during Lent, with the reality of how we do live them and then why we do not. Which ones are more attractive and graceful for us to make our own? Why is one or other not as attractive?
Many books and articles have been printed describing these elements of Christ’s teaching. Many wonderful homilies have been presented helping our understanding of the meaning and impact on our lives of these basic and new “Seven Commandments”. I offer humbly a reflection on only one.
Pope Benedict, in his easy-to-read and yet profound book, Jesus of Nazareth, wrote, “The organ for seeing God is the heart. The intellect alone is not enough.” Our wills must be pure, interiorly open, and free in order for us to be free so as to “see God”. Blessed are the “clean of heart for they shall see God.” Obviously this meant, for my early Catholic boyhood, sexual purity! I was always a little disappointed that Jesus had to bring in “sex!” in His very first talk. Obviously, there is much more to being “clean of heart” than well-integrated sexuality. It has more to do about our not being disappointed in God and God’s ways.
The English word “expect” has its root in the Latin word for “looking out”. Jesus asked several times, “What are you seeking, what are you looking for?” The impure or unclean of heart have demandingness in their hearts. Things, events, and especially others have to be just this way and then perfection or God will be seen. Expectationalism keeps a closed fist, ready to shake at God, at life, at somebody else, rather than open hands to accept and wait. Expecting and accepting are cousins-in-words. A “dirty” heart waits only for God to adapt to specific designs.
God is love; we read and try to believe. God’s Will then is for God to be Who and what God is. God’s will is to love and love us all and very particularly. What dirtifies and makes seeing God impossible is our faulty and self-loving wills. “Mine!” “No!” “Now!” These are words we all have learned early and well. Their echoes accompany our clean desires. They form a mighty battle within us and it is into this battle that Jesus urges His early teammates. There is no “I’ in the word “team”, but there is in “mIne” there is in “marrIage”, and in “communIty” as well.
Impurity of any kind is our trying to replace God by our creating a god out of a God-given gift. Our inability to see God then is caused by our being blinded by seeing only the gift so as not to see beyond and within the gift to the Giver.
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in His place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts. Those who do not lift up their souls to what is false and who do not swear deceitfully.” Ps. 24, 3-4
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