Central idea: Saints get to be with God. Doctrine and Practical application: Beatitude and the Beatitudes.
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)
To view Lectionary 667, click here.
Central idea: Saints get to be with God
Reading 1 Rv 7:2-4, 9-14
I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.
After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”
All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:
“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”
- God’s grace seals the members of the Church Militant against tribulation, however severe. The Church Triumphant encourages us to persevere even to death, just as they did. (NAB note)
- It is very hard for us to picture heaven, a condition of perfect happiness with God and all the saved. St. Paul acknowledged this when he wrote: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
- John tells us that the number of the saints in heaven is immense, including both Jews and Gentiles.
- Who are these saved and where did they come from? The elder gives his enigmatic answer. I think he means that they shed their blood for Christ.
- What about us? For most of us, I think having “survived the time of great distress” means being faithful to Christ to the end. The “Blood of the Lamb” means the Redemption worked by Christ from which we receive grace and friendship with God. Washing our robes and making them white means we have done our part in our salvation; that is, our having remained in the state of grace and friendship with Christ.
- More particularly, for most of us, to survive the time of great distress means to have embraced and lived the Beatitudes. Especially blessed are those who are persecuted, insulted, and accused of evil falsely because of allegiance to Christ.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
- Who gets to be with God? This is the question the psalmist asks. It is the same question that the elder asks John in his vision: Who survives the time of great distress and washes his or her robes so they are white?
- The answer is the same but in different words: “One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”
- The saints who constitute the Church Triumphant are that race which has sought the face of God and has received the reward from God their savior.
Reading 2 1 Jn 3:1-3
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.
- John echoes St. Paul about how great heaven will be, even though it is impossible to picture it, but he gives us a clue. “We shall be like him.”
- But even now in this time of testing, which is our earthly life, we really are children of God.
- Our work is to remain and grow in the grace and friendship of Christ. That is what it means to make ourselves pure, to have pure hearts, to have sinless hands, to wash our robes in the blood of Christ.
- We want to do this because we have hope of heaven.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
- The saints in heaven whose struggle is over are being given their rest.
- But Our Lord gives us rest here on earth. He does this through the gift of the virtue of hope, the expectation that he really will save us. This is the hope of every one of the Beatitudes, which Christ himself lived and which he invites us to take up also.
Gospel Mt 5:1-12a
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
- Poverty of spirit is knowing our need for God.
- Mourning is embracing the inevitable sufferings of life and alleviating the sorrows of others.
- Meekness is docility to God’s will and gentleness and patience with others, even in the face of sufferings, disappointments, and insults.
- Hunger for justice is the longing to see everyone enjoy the peace, happiness, justice, and healing promised by Christ.
- We obtain mercy by extending it to others.
- Purity of heart is that right intention or sincerity that puts God first and judges everything else in relationship to God.
- Real peace is reached when enemies become trustworthy friends.
- Suffering for doing what is right is accompanied by deep happiness even now.
Doctrine and Practical Application: Beatitude and the Beatitudes
- We desire what the saints in heaven enjoy: beatitude. Beatitude is the secure possession of every good obtained by the direct vision of God, the fullness of love, goodness, truth, and beauty. As the Catechism glossary puts it, beatitude is “happiness or blessedness, especially the eternal happiness of heaven, which is described as the vision of God, or entering into God’s rest by those whom He makes “partakers of the divine nature” (CCC 1024 & 1721).
- The Beatitudes are a self-portrait of Jesus Christ, a picture of the lives of the saints, and a blueprint for how we should live out our friendship with Christ now in this fallen and yet redeemed world. So let’s look at them in more depth.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Christ lived poverty of spirit by his kenosis or self-emptying.
- For us, poverty of spirit means knowing our need for God.
- One way we can actively imitate Christ’s poverty of spirit is through detachment. Detachment is the ability to do without something if necessary and the freedom to use our goods to love God and serve our neighbor.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt 11:28-30)
- We can find comfort in our small and even great sufferings by offering them up. We can do this because we share in the universal priesthood of Christ. When we encounter others who suffer, we can comfort them as Christ would.
- As Isaiah’s suffering servant (Is 53 ff.), Christ mourned in the myriad of sufferings he endured. He was comforted in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane by angels. His ultimate comforting was the glorification of his human body at the Resurrection, never to suffer or die again. Christ comforts all who are close to him:
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Christ was meek, taking the form of slave, washing the feet of his apostles at the Last Supper, and even patiently bearing the abuse people hurled at him while he hung on the Cross.
- We are meek when we have the strength to be docile to God’s will and gentle and patient with others even in the face of sufferings, disappointments, and insults. We return love for hatred and blessings and prayers for curses. The result will be the inheritance of heaven.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
- Righteousness is another word for justice. Christ said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). Christ’s entire work was to restore the justice which had existed between humanity and God before the fall.
- We hunger for justice when we long to see everyone enjoy the peace, happiness, justice, and healing promised by Christ. We ourselves have a spiritual aching that we hope will one day be satisfied by Christ himself. We spread the Faith so that others can be made right by Christ’s redemption.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
- Mercy is an unmerited act of kindness. Christ is literally the personification of mercy: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
- We all need Christ’s mercy because we are all sinners, lacking in virtue, and in need of physical and spiritual goods.
- We obtain mercy by extending it to others.
- One way is through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
- Another is by forgiving those who have offended us.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
- Purity of heart is that right intention or sincerity that puts God first and judges everything else in relationship to God. Jesus Christ had this single intention and possessed from the moment of his conception the Beatific Vision—God’s infinite self-knowledge of his being, truth, goodness, beauty, and love—everything he is—and of every one and everything he has created.
- Those who are pure in heart are able to see God even in this life and will see him face-to-face in the next.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
- Real peace is reached when enemies become trustworthy friends. Jesus Christ is the peacemaker par excellence, reconciling men to God and to one another. This is why his first words to his Apostles after he rose from the dead were, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21).
- We can become better friends with God by talking with him in prayer, living life by his rules, and going to Confession when we fall short.
- Christ promises that those who reconcile persons to God and to one another will be counted as children of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
- Christ had extreme hatred turned on him, even though he went about only doing good (Acts 10:38).
- If you are faithful to Christ, it is almost guaranteed that people will attack you. Christ says when this happens you should “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:12).
- Paradoxically, suffering for doing what is right is accompanied by deep happiness.
- The Sacrament of Confirmation gives us the grace to witness for Christ. Even if others consider us their enemies, we never need to think of them that way. We can be understanding with those who attack us because every one of us has betrayed Christ at some time through our sins. We don’t condemn others, even if we have to call a sin a sin. We want to be co-redeemers with Christ to convert the world.