Dear brothers and sisters,
We are taking a three week break in our strategy of preaching in series, until the First Week of Lent on March 10 when we will kick off a new series entitled “Rebuilt.” This week, we hear from the so-called “Sermon on the Plain” from Luke’s Gospel. This is Jesus’ first big sermon, his inaugural address – and it's shocking. The topic is happiness, or being blessed; and in a total reversal of ordinary standards, Jesus links true happiness with struggle, hardship, suffering and opposition, not with the prosperity, popularity, and pleasure that we normally associate with happiness. What does he mean by this? Jesus isn’t saying that the good things of life are evil – not at all. They are God’s gifts, and we are meant to enjoy them; but he is saying that they cannot satisfy our desire for happiness. If we put our trust in them, as Jeremiah says in the first reading, our lives will wither and harden, like tumbleweeds in the desert – no roots, and no fruits. Rather, Jesus is teaching us that the true path to happiness in this fallen world is paved with life’s challenges and hardships. These remind us that this world is passing and imperfect, that the only dependable thing in life is our friendship with God. Hardships and challenges teach us to root our lives in the rich soil of knowing, loving, and serving him; then our lives will be like a flourishing tree, with strong roots and luscious fruits. This lesson has to be re-learned continually. Because of our fallen nature, we always tend to think we can find heaven on earth by putting together just the right combination of possessions, praise, and power. However, we can’t, as our Lord makes perfectly clear. We are members of the “Church Militant” for as long as we journey here on earth, and that means we need to keep our armor on and our supply lines protected, lest we fall into the enemy’s traps.
I will be on my annual retreat this week, and I will be praying for everybody in our St. John’s family. Many thanks to Fr. Jaime and Msgr. Bergamo who will be here to cover Masses while I am away. There will be no Mass on Wednesday and Friday February 20 and 22 at 9 am, but Deacon Max will conduct a Communion Service on those days.