Those who reside within

There is an ancient tale which provides a marvelous insight into today’s readings and in many ways to how easy it is to take offense when none was intended.

The Sermon on the Mount

Once, long ago, a wealthy man held a magnificent dinner party and invited all the wealthy, the learned, and the wise. As the guests were arriving, dressed in their finest garments, one guest, known for his wisdom, stood out, for he was dressed, not in finery, but in rags and tattered clothes. This infuriated the host so much that he immediately had the man ejected, tossed rudely into the street.

Some time passed and the wise man returned, now in sumptuously rich, elegant silken garments, perfectly attired for the gala event, and was well received.

When it came time for dinner, after everyone had been seated, someone noticed the empty seat reserved for the wise man. Searching, the host found him sitting on the floor behind a large potted plant, spooning food down the sleeve of his garment. Furious, the host angrily demanded “What in the world are you doing?” To which the wise man replied “Well, obviously, I was not the one invited to the party, but rather my clothes. I am simply allowing them to enjoy the dinner.”

What the wise man made plain was that it is not what we own or the honors we receive or any of those things we acquire that are and should be important, for those things too often get in the way of accepting and knowing who we really are. Unfortunately, we seldom truly know ourselves. Life is complicated and so too is living.

I recently came across an article which recounted an interview with Catherine de Hueck Doherty, the foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate. At the time of the interview she was 80 years old and was reflecting upon her own spiritual struggles. She said:

Inside of me there are three persons:

There is someone I call the Baroness. This person is very spiritual, efficient, and given to asceticism and prayer. The baroness is the religious person. She has founded a religious community and writes spiritual books challenging others and herself to dedicate their lives to God and the poor. The Baroness reads the Gospel and is impatient with the things of this world. For her, this life must be sacrificed for the next one.

Then there is Catherine. Catherine is, first of all and always, the woman who likes fine things, luxuries, sensual things. She enjoys idleness, long baths, fine clothes, putting on make-up, healthy sex life. Catherine enjoys this life and doesn’t like renunciation and poverty. She is nowhere as religious or efficient as the Baroness. In fact, she hates the Baroness, she and the Baroness don’t get along at all.

And finally, inside of me too there is another person, a little girl, who is lying on a hillside in Finland, watching the clouds and daydreaming. This little girl is quite distant from both the Baroness and from Catherine.

… And as I get older I feel more like the Baroness, long more for Catherine, but think that maybe the little girl daydreaming on a hillside in Finland is the true me.1

Like Catherine Doherty, each of us has residing within any number of “persons,” or personalities, if you prefer.

Inside of each of us there’s someone who hears the Gospel call, that’s drawn to the religious, to the beatitudes, to renunciation, to self-sacrifice, to a life beyond this one. But inside of us there is also the hedonist, the sensualist, the person who wants to luxuriate in this world and its pleasures. Beyond that, inside of each of us there is too a little boy or little girl, daydreaming still on some hillside somewhere.

The truly spiritual person is a whole person and a whole person is, as Christ was, the ascetic and the hedonist, the lover of this life and the lover of the next life, the dreamer and the realist, and countless more things, all at the same time.2

What is important for us to understand and acknowledge is that in our spiritual journey we cannot disavow our nature, filled with its endless paradoxes and complexities. We must admit to ourselves that we are complicated, even pathologically complicated; nothing of us is simple and whatever and whoever tells you it is simple should be summarily dismissed.

Saint Paul tells us “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”3

Inside ourselves reside, at different times, the foolish and the wise, the weak and the strong, the lowly and despised, the humble and the proud. It is who we are, it is in the complexity of our nature.

There are times when we want abundance, control, and authority to attain material wealth and power, yet we know only the poor in spirit can achieve the reign of God. It is in those times when we are insulted, dishonored, and treated with contempt that we must look deep inside ourselves and determine whether we possess the virtue of humility, whether we are able to bear everything without feeling hurt or taking offense.

What are we to make of those who mourn? Notice that Jesus does not say those who have mourned, but those who continually mourn. Jesus wants us to mourn continually, for having been made humble by repentance for our transgressions, our sins, we should feel compelled to let not a day pass without mourning for our brokenness, hoping that we will be comforted in our distress.

We are irritated at being overlooked, passed by, neglected, unappreciated. But Jesus says the lowly will inherit the land.

We inflate our ourselves with things, projects, people. But Jesus tells us to hunger and thirst for righteousness, for justice in order to feel satisfied.

We are leery of those who are merciful for we do not understand those who give away all their possessions or who feed the poor. Is that who Jesus called merciful? No, the merciful are those who have and are willing to share with those who have not. And in giving they will receive mercy in return.

We struggle with hedonistic thoughts and tawdry desires, which offer no true and lasting pleasure and wonder why we remain so unhappy. But then Jesus admonishes us that in purity of heart and whole-heartedness we will find bliss and see God.

We are often repulsed by the peacemakers, those bleeding hearts, those do-gooders, for we know they will surely not succeed in the “real world.” They are most often held in contempt, even by Christians. Perhaps that is why Jesus told his disciples that they would be persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for holiness sake.

Those persons that reside within us are in constant need of God’s grace. The Beatitudes are meant not just for one but for all those who reside within, for each has separate and different needs, different sins to overcome.

We often find ourselves confused by the ones Jesus holds in such high esteem: the poor, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the persecuted. Why not the wealthy, the learned, and the wise? Perhaps it is because wealth and honor, praise and esteem are lures that lead us away from God, and from our real selves.

Consider this:

Wealth tempts us to allow our possessions to possess us, to replace who we really are. Honor, praise, and esteem tempt us to relax and take it easy, to be pleased with ourselves, to believe that we have accomplished all on our own accord. We forget to ask who God created when he made the person that we are, out of nothing.

We fall prey to the devil’s beguiling temptations and lose sight of our one true purpose: to reach the kingdom of heaven where we shall see God.

Amen.

 

Homily #107
The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Zephaniah 2-3; 3:12-13
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Matthew 5:1-12

 


1 Ron Rolheiser, In Exile: The Struggle for Wholeness, The Sunday Website of St. Louis University.
2 Ron Rolheiser, In Exile.
3 1 Cor 1:27-29.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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