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Father Muench Says...

Blessed are... Catholic schools, etc.

Feb. 1, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today I would like to begin by paying my tribute to our Catholic school system here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.  We should be very proud of our Catholic elementary schools and our two Catholic high school.  Their faculties and administrators are exceptional.

Our diocese has a long and proud history of many Catholic High Schools. Although today we have only two, I remember the days when we did have many. 

I remember one year – ages ago – when I was teaching at Immaculate Heart Central in Watertown.  The superintendent of our Catholic schools was Father Bill LaValley and he asked me to direct the Diocesan Basketball Tournament at Clarkson College.  With 11 eleven schools represented, it was quite a sensational tournament with rather large crowds attending. 

Those were very memorable days.

Many communities in our diocese are blessed with a Catholic Elementary School.  I know only too well how well prepared these students are and all they do when they enter the local public school.

Now about other things. 

Today I would like to consider with you something about this year’s Gospels.  This year, which is the A year of the Gospel cycle for Mass, follows St. Matthew’s Gospel.  We begin these Gospels with the Sermon on the Mount which opens with the Beatitudes. 

We should begin each religion class with the Beatitudes which give us a terrific foundation for the message of Jesus.

Let me add that on a trip to Israel, our guide took us to a glorious hillside where tradition says Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount.  It was a perfect place to teach a large group.  That day on our trip I certainly got an image of what that day must have been like in Jesus’ time.

Today let me share with you some of my own thoughts about some of these statements that we call the Beatitudes.  They are so perfect and rather countercultural. In this way Jesus teaches us the way to true happiness since, as you may remember, the word “blessed” means happy.

So here is my take on the Beatitudes.
• Blessed are the poor in Spirit: The world seems to say to us that to be happy we need lots of possessions while Jesus points out to us that possessions can become very addictive.  They can make us selfish, even greedy.  Jesus teaches us that we will find happiness when we depend less on the stuff of this world.  My lesson in understanding the happiness of poverty came from my friends at Madonna House.  The questions for us are: What do I really need?  How can I deal with my possessions and help others?  Jesus teaches us that happiness can be ours when you don’t allow possessions to get between ourselves and our God.

• Blessed are those who mourn:  Jesus wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus; humanly speaking he understood who we are.  We seek help, personal help, when we face the times of sadness – the loss of a loved one, the failings in our own life.  We must not be afraid to honestly allow ourselves to mourn so that we can move on and discover a new life, accepting and finding the challenges to put life back together and start anew.

• Blessed are the meek. The world seems to tell us that only the powerful will find happiness.  When Jesus came among us, he lived and suffered with meekness and ignorance. We find more power and understanding through his meekness.  Jesus teaches us that we will discover more peace when acting through innocence and humility rather than boldness.  I am certain that you have discovered this quality of Jesus in prayer, a quality that brings us to the happiness that Jesus wants to teach us.

• Blessed are the merciful. Jesus came to show us the value and importance of acting with mercy and forgiveness.  This will always bring peace and happiness.  Forgiveness for many is difficult, almost impossible, yet we can do it because we are followers of Jesus and because we are good people.  Peace will always come when we discover the power of forgiveness.  Being a merciful person transforms us.  Through it we discover the happiness that Jesus brings us.

• Finally, blessed are the peace makers. Peacemakers are not weak rather, with Jesus, peacemakers are children of God. Jesus urges us to be people of peace – and bring love and happiness to our world.   

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