Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, February 6, 2011, The Light of God's Kingdom, Ken Hughes S.J.


St. Mary of the Angels:

Sunday 5 A 2/6/11 (Isaiah 58.7-10; I Corinthians 2.1-5;

Matthew 5.13-16)

 If you have seen the third part of the trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings," you may remember how Sauron’s forces of evil gather to attack Gondor’s capitol, Minas Tirith. (And, if you have not seen this movie, perhaps you can imagine how the scene unfolds.) One of the hobbits, Pippin, is sent to climb the mountain behind the citadel to set fire to the beacon tower as a signal for help. As the flames leap up from the beacon, the camera sweeps across a wide, wide vista of fierce snowy mountains. Then, suddenly, far off, another beacon bursts into flames, and then, another, and another, and another until Theoden and Aragon with their army of good warriors see the light and are stirred into action. They journey forth to the battle.

Light and salt: the beacon lights on the mountains summoning! The salt of passion stirring hearts to courage! How quickly lights calling for war touch the salt of human spirits to fight!

But what about another light and another salt?

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus climbed a mountain and lit the beacons of his Father’s Kingdom: "Blessed are the poor in spirit … the meek … those who mourn … the merciful … the pure of heart … the peacemakers … those who thirst for righteousness and justice." Each Beatitude was a beacon summoning the disciples to be different and to act differently in this world. These beacons came from Jesus and pointed to Jesus, who is himself the Light of the world.

And we will see that Light of the world shining forth on another mountain, Mt. Tabor, where Jesus will be transfigured into shining glory before the eyes of Peter, James and John.

Then, that Light will leap across to another mountain, to the Mount of Olives, to the hill of Calvary, where the Light almost seemed to fail, but, as St. John tells us in The Prologue of his Gospel, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (Jn. 1.5) -- not then, not now! There, on that mountain, the beacons of the Beatitudes will shine forth in and through the person of Jesus. In Him we will see the salt of courage lived to the full.

Look at those beacons; imagine the salt of courage:

Poor in spirit: Jesus stripped of his garments.

The meek: Jesus stretching out his hands to be nailed.

Those who mourn: Jesus crying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The Merciful and Peacemakers: Jesus praying, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."

Righteousness and Justice: Jesus crying, "I thirst," and promising the repentant thief: "This day you will be with me in Paradise."

The Pure of heart: Jesus surrendering to his Father: "Into your hands, I commend my spirit."

Jesus is the Light because he lived and held in his being all those light-beacons of the Beatitudes which He had proclaimed back at the beginning of his ministry.

But, there is one more mountain in Matthew’s Gospel. At the very end, after the Resurrection, Matthew wrote, "The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them …" There, Jesus said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you …" (Mt. 28.16-20), -- namely, the Beatitudes.

This last mountain is our mountain! The message is clear: we, along with the disciples, have been handed the beacons of the Beatitudes to be kept burning brightly through the salt of our courage. If we at St. Mary of the Angels can be living more intentionally these Beatitudes, we will receive blessings for ourselves but, more importantly, be brighter beacons of hope in a neighborhood often overshadowed by fear and violence, by discouragement and despair. Jesus carried all the light in Himself. We can’t do that. But, we can each ask: what is the light from Jesus’ light, that I am asked to hold? What hopeful word can I say to someone? What gracious act can I do for someone? Isaiah suggests: sharing bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked. Do I have the salt of courage to bring that light to the next "mountain" so that others may feel summoned to give glory to God?

The light of my Beatitude or of your Beatitude is not enough, but, together, as the community of St. Mary of the Angels, we do hold the light of all the Beatitudes. And someone, sometime, somewhere, is bound to see that light and respond to the call. "Then," as the prophet, Isaiah, predicted, "Your light shall break forth like the dawn; … light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday." Thus, slowly, perhaps very slowly, but surely, the light of God’s Kingdom will spread across our world.

Kenneth J. Hughes, S.J.

Brighton, Mass. 2/6/11

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