Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012917.cfm
When visiting over Christmas vacation, our nine-year old granddaughter, Ellie, crawled into bed with me. Born at just 2 pounds, 4 ounces, Ellie struggles to keep weight on and shivers through most of winter. I gladly lifted the comforter, drew her in, and wrapped her in my arms. When Ellie awoke, she jumped up to join her siblings for breakfast, announcing, “I slept with Mimi last night!” Though having been cold, she felt blest to have snuggled with grandma.
I have always prayed for our children and grandchildren to be blessed—petitioning favor and protection—but after reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel, I wonder. This familiar passage from the Sermon on the Mount portrays blessedness in direct relationship with the beatitudes. So, in my heart of hearts, I ponder: Do I really want our children and grandchildren to be blessed? Do I want them to experience poverty, grief, lowliness, insults, and persecution?
In the previous chapter of Matthew, we read “great crowds” were following Jesus because “he was curing every disease and illness among the people” (Mt 4: 23). I begin to imagine Jesus preaching and the hillside blanketed with men, women, and even children who have been humbled by life—those in absolute need of a refreshing word or a healing touch.
These were the people who would now occupy neonatal intensive care units, cancer centers, unemployment lines, nursing homes, homeless shelters, rehab clinics, funeral homes, and refugee camps. These are the sick, the poor, the lowly, the grieving, and the bullied. Yet life’s losses and difficulties do not automatically lead to blessedness. Rather, the beatitudes teach us the truly blessed are those who humbly acknowledge their need and are open to God’s presence.
I would never wish sickness, poverty, persecution, or discrimination on anyone, much less my precious grandchildren. But I do want them to understand, especially in the midst of trials, God draws close to the poor in spirit like a “hen gathering her chicks under her wings” (Mt 23:37). As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s comforting presence—when a child is lonely, by embracing her and whispering, “Jesus is close to you,” or when a child is sick, by cooling his brow and reminding, “Jesus cares deeply and will strengthen you.”
My prayer is for our grandchildren to live the beatitudes as peacemakers: kind, meek, merciful, pure of heart, and righteous. I pray they seek the Lord each day, knowing they can do nothing on their own and may boast of nothing except Jesus Christ. And when life hands them difficulties—from birth through old age—I pray they will trust in God’s presence and know of their blessedness.
I woke up this morning chilled and immediately thought of Ellie, wishing we could warm one another. Being born prematurely, life has given Ellie many challenges, but she has been blessed with a tenacious spirit and loving, faith-filled parents. I pray Ellie will be blessed all the days of her life with God’s closeness (especially when Mimi isn’t near) to warm her—body and soul. Now, that’s good news!
What blessings do you pray for your children or grandchildren?
How have you experienced blessedness in the midst of difficulties?
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Shortly after my mother died, I received a beautiful note from a woman who grew up down the street saying that as a child she had found refuge in our home because of my mother’s warmth and welcome—her sharing of Jesus’ love. I always assumed this childhood friend simply enjoyed playing jacks, but it turns out our home was a light to the neighborhood.
In this Sunday’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah predicts the coming of “a light to the nations.” In the Gospel, John the Baptist reveals this saving light—Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” God’s plan of salvation extends from the Jewish race to all peoples—all nations. The Second Vatican Council document, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, translating into, “Light of the Nations,” reminds us the Church exists “to bring the light of Christ to all men…” (n.1).
According to Lumen gentium, Christ’s light also shines through the Christian family as a “domestic church,” the church in the miniature—the church of the home. In the domestic church, members are washed clean through tears of forgiveness and reconciliation, nourished by good food and rich conversation, and anointed through bedtime blessing. As the domestic church, “the family is called to join in daily prayer, to read the word of God and to share in Eucharistic communion, and thus grow in love and become ever more fully a temple in which the Spirit dwells” (The Joy of Love, Pope Francis, n. 29).
Perhaps the domestic church shines most brightly as a “contrast society” (Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manuel for Evangelization, Scott Hahn). In a world of violence, alienation, consumerism, and depression, the domestic church offers a contrast of life, love, inclusion, intimacy, peace, simplicity and joy. In a society where families are pulled apart by demanding work schedules, relentless activity, and endless entertainment or ripped apart by selfishness or addiction, the domestic church testifies to a new way of living—a better way of loving as self-gift.
In the domestic church, parents/grandparents name God’s tender presence—grace—when helping a tired mother, comforting a sick grandfather, consoling a disheartened sibling, or welcoming a lonely neighborhood child. Its warmth radiates as members spend time aiding an elderly neighbor, serving in a soup kitchen, or working on a community project. And, in Christ, each domestic church always makes room for one more around the family table.
No domestic church is perfect, yet the Christian family ideally responds to trials with prayer, mercy, tenderness, and hope. We are reminded, “a family is holy not because it is perfect but because God's grace is working in it” (Follow the Way of Love, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 9). Through good times and bad, Christ’s light prevails in the domestic church, causing others to comment, “See how they love one another.”
Our world is in deep need of Christ’s vision, and as the great preacher, Martin Luther King Jr., proclaimed, “I have a dream!” God has a dream for the Church to lead all of humanity to Christ—to a world of peace, justice, joy. God has a dream for each family to shine brightly as the domestic church, transforming our world—one porch light at a time! Now, that’s good news!
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.