Archbishop Robert Carlson celebrated Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the pilgrims before they headed back to St. Louis on Saturday evening. In his homily, Archbishop Carlson challenged all to truly live all eight of the beatitudes, presented in the Gospel reading (Matthew 5:1-12).
His homily began with a story of a retreat experience he had when the priest directing his retreat asked him to pick his favorite beatitude. The Archbishop, thinking he ought to have more than one favorite, picked three. In response the priest directing the retreat told the Archbishop that the beatitudes were not a pick-and-choose offering of Jesus, but rather, that we are called to live all eight. He then spent the rest of the retreat reflecting on the five others he didn’t pick.
Archbishop Carlson invited all of us to envision ourselves as part of the crowd at Galilee and to hear Jesus inviting us into each of these beatitudes. The beatitudes, in conjunction with the commandments, point the path we need to follow to be men and women of God. To live these beatitudes is counter cultural. Like the first disciples, we need to leave our old ways behind to follow Jesus.
Archbishop Carlson said that there are two types of Christians. The first type are those who learn about the faith, but when they look out, they only see a mirror that reflects back themselves. These people care the most about themselves. They put a huge premium on choice and self-determination. It is all about their choice, not what God’s choice is. So when they say they are pro-choice, they really mean that whatever they picked is okay because they chose it and they value it.
The second type are those who look out and see the ways God is calling them to serve and are windows to God’s love. These people realize that life is not really about us. They ask the question: what does God want for me? We are not wired for things of this world; we are wired for God. We are wired to worship the crucified Jesus.
This gift of everlasting life is not easy, Archbishop Carlson pointed out. Simply look at what happened to the Apostles. Other than St. John, they all died a martyr’s death. The age of martyrs is not over. Next time you make a decision different from your friends because you know God and what a gift life is, and your friends ignore you or make fun of you, you start getting a sense that there is a price to following Jesus. Yet this is the life to which Christ is asking us to live. We are invited in the grace of the Eucharist to allow Jesus to love us more and open our lives more to the Holy Spirit.
None of us are perfect. We all have a ways to go. The gift of Reconciliation allows the love of Jesus to flow through us again so that we can be renewed. But Archbishop Carlson challenged each person to make Jesus more of a priority in their life. He challenged each person to read all eight beatitudes on the bus ride back to St. Louis. Jesus expects us to live all eight to the best of our abilities. Our goal is to live like saints little by little so that we can reach the point where we can boast in the Lord alone.