Sharing the Gift Week 3: Heart of God
Welcome to the wonderful third week of our message series, Sharing the Gift. We have been discussing how you can share the gift of God’s love, and of your faith, with others. Of course tomorrow (Monday) is Valentine’s Day, and as we look at sharing the gift, we see how Jesus shares the gift of God’s love by composing a love song. We often call that love song, the beatitudes. Beatitudes is a word which means blessings.
Today’s gospel contains these beatitudes. They are the core of the good news of God’s love with which we are entrusted. Jesus speaks good news to the poor: theirs is the kingdom of God. He turns our ordinary perceptions on their heads. The poor have the kingdom; the rich are rejected. We are blessed when people hate us, and we are in trouble when we are satiated.
If we want to know what the heart of God is like we need to look no further than the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are Jesus’s love song. Jesus came to call us to a way of love that begins with loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves in a healthy balanced way. The Beatitudes teach us how to become more like God, how to reflect goodness, beauty, and truth that are the heart of God.
Paul in the second reading describes the most paradoxical event we must witness: a dead man, Jesus, has been raised to life. We live in a culture of death; Christians must proclaim a word of life and resurrection in the midst of this death. Like the Beatitudes, this message sounds foolish to the wisdom of this world. But as Paul says, if Christ does not live, we are all dead.
In this topsy-turvy world that appears to be coming apart at the seams, perhaps only a gospel which seems absurd can break through and save us. As Jeremiah vouches, in our first reading, we have trusted in human beings for most of our history. In God’s eyes such trust is a curse. We are challenged today to trust in the Lord, to have our hope in this ridiculous Lord of love, the Lord of the poor, the persecuted, the meek, the hungry. Only such faith, in such seemingly absurd love, brings life and allows us to grow like the wonderful tree Jeremiah pictures.
Jeremiah says when we have faith in this God of love, we are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.
Sometimes though in the craziness of life, we question God’s love. How can a God who loves us so, allow such bad things to happen? We want to help you with this questioning of God’s love. Such questioning is very real and legitimate. Lent begins in about one month. In response to this questioning of God, we are hosting a parish-wide small group study for Lent focused on the book Seriously, God? Making Sense of Life Not Making Sense.
I’ll bet all of you have experienced something like this: A friend’s child dies; a parent gets cancer; your spouse loses their job. Sometimes life and God’s plans don’t make sense, and we end up feeling hurt and angry.
In Seriously God? we will explore the denial, doubt, and betrayal we experience when life doesn’t make sense. While those experiences can drive us further away from God, they can also be opportunities to lean in and learn more about him. The problems of life do not have to crush our faith. Instead, if we lean in, we can develop a deeper faith.
You know, our country has political campaigns and military campaigns, churches often have capital campaigns to raise money, we want this small group series to be a spiritual campaign. A campaign is a series of activities designed to produce a particular result.
The Catholic Church offers spiritual campaigns to draw you closer into your relationship with God as a Catholic or a Christian. Whether you are Catholic or not, your faith is all about your relationship with God and how you live that relationship out on earth in adherence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have spiritual campaigns as an entire parish to help you grow with God, to stretch your faith, and help you grow.
The backbone of our spiritual campaign will be our small groups and our Sunday Homily messages.
Why small Groups? We are created by God for relationships. We need friends in faith to encourage us to keep going in faith. It is in these small groups that we SHARE THE GIFT of faith in a beautiful way. In this day and age of isolation, small groups are a vital strategy for connecting people, so they don’t silently slip away from the body of Christ. Jesus said where two or three are gathered in his name he is present.
Why meet in homes? Meeting outside of the church is a powerful reminder that our relationship with Christ is not to be confined to a building but to extend into the world and should be a part of our everyday relationships.
What Happens During Small groups? We provide a leader’s guide, discussion guide, and companion videos for your small groups. The format is very simple and, in its simplicity, lies power. Each session should last 75 to 90 minutes. For the first 10 or 15 Minutes, gather, grab a drink or snacks. Drinks are essential, snacks are not. The group enjoys small talk about sports, weather, hobbies, family life, etc, (stay away from politics).
The next 5 Minutes pray. Our leaders may choose to read the prayer provided or pray from their heart. The leader may ask someone from your group to pray, but will never put anybody on the spot or make them feel uncomfortable.
After prayer you will watch a brief 8 Minute video about ways in which we are challenged or confused by God’s plans. This helps focus your group’s conversation on the topic. Then for about 40-50 minutes Your group will go through some discussion questions about the chapter of the book you just read and the video you just watched.
Have you ever questioned God or wondered how a loving God let’s bad things happen? If so, this series is for you. Do you want to better understand the heart of God and God’s love? If so, this series is for you. If you want to have a better relationship with God, please join us.
All you have to do is sign up and join us. You can do that now on your phone at saintmary.life/member
We are going to be quiet for a few minutes to allow you to sign-up on your phone. Won’t you join us in our spiritual campaign? You will be glad you did.