June is the month of many weddings. Here's one daughter emailing from Australia:
Dearest Dad, I am getting married soon. He lives in Scotland. We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on Whatsapp, and he proposed on Skype. I’m coming home soon, need your blessing and checkbook for a big wedding. Love and thanks. Your daughter, Lilly.
And here's dad's response:
My Dear Lilly, Wow! I suggest you get married on Twitter, get kids on Amazon, pay for it all through PayPal, and when you get fed up with him, sell him on eBay. Love, Dad. I presume dad’s response was “tongue in cheek!” The internet definitely has changed the way we communicate.
Long before apps, the word of God takes us back to the 9th century BC. God calls Elisha to succeed Elijah as a prophetic voice. Elijah here placed his mantle, a symbol of authority, over Elisha, who answered God’s call with a “yes.” He didn’t know how life would unfold; he simply trusted in God’s design, in God's unconditional love for him.
God also calls us to live a life of discipleship. Today! What is our response? Jesus makes it clear: don’t look at what we’re leaving behind. Move forward in faith.
God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, a special song to sing, a special act of love to bestow, notes Jesuit Fr. John Powell, in his book Through Seasons of the Heart. None of us is too young, too weak, or too old. Each of us has a mission to fulfill, given to us by God himself. As our life unfolds with its challenges and opportunities, do we trust in God's unconditional love for us?
We may sometimes judge others, like James and John in today’s Gospel. Jews generally considered Samaritans foreigners. The two disciples wanted to obliterate these Samaritans. But Jesus rebukes the disciples. He indicates discipleship is making God our first priority.
Paul, in his letter to the Christian community in Galatia, proclaims that Jesus freed us from our worse selves (a life of vice) so that we can choose our better selves (a life of virtue). Yes, the Spirit of God lives and moves and breathes within us so that we can become our authentic selves, true sons and daughters of God and heirs to the kingdom of God.
How are we using our freedom? This insight of St. Paul’s particularly intrigued me. Becoming our better selves is what joy and happiness are all about.
Many think that if they get enough money, fame, or power, they’ll be happy. But if so, explain how celebrities who “had it all” have gone off track. Happiness has to factor into life: work with its stresses; relationships with tensions; disappointments with dreams; guilt about what one did or didn’t do; health; and ultimately death.
Bishop Robert Barron, of “Word on Fire” fame, cites Michael Jordan as an example of someone who became his happiest not by playing basketball any way he wanted but by mastering the basics. So too with our discipleship with Jesus.
So, what are the basics?
In the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the kind of character we should have. The first four steps focus on our relationship with God. The next four steps, with one another.
Disciples recognize that only God can fill their emptiness. That’s what it means to be poor in spirit. An awesome Creator gifted us with life. Disciples realize their fortune to be alive and are grateful. Knowing that only God can heal and gift them with eternal life, they are gentle, considerate and unassuming.
Yes, disciples, above all, hunger for a right relationship with God.
The next four beatitudes or attitudes have to do with our relationships with one another. Fortunate are they who forgive wrongs done to them and let go of their anger. They realize how much they themselves need God’s mercy. Fortunate are they who are pure in heart, who have integrity, openness, and authenticity in their relationships with others; they will see God face to face.
The literary critic H. L. Mencken described conscience as the “inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.” That is a good guide for transparency in our relationships. Fortunate are they who don’t stir up conflict but try to be at peace with themselves, with others, and with God.
And lastly, fortunate are they who try to do the right thing in all decisions, small and great, that affect work, career, family, relationships, life.
In the Gospel, Jesus says: follow me. Today I pray that, with God’s grace, the beatitudes will inspire us to live in a right relationship with God and one another in grateful happiness forever.