"When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain...He began to teach them..." (Matthew 5:1). There is something to say about the designation of the church building on 1840 Marshall Dr/ 904 Mill Rd as a "new" church in comparison to the Historical Church as the "old" church. From the beginning of my time here, I have always contested the original nomenclature. I prefer to call the "new" church "the church on the Hill." I think my preference for that terminology is connected to the connotation of "mountain" in the Bible. A mountain is a place of divine revelation. Moses encountered God and received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. Jesus, the new and more outstanding Moses, also goes to the mountain to talk to God and to teach new commandments. In Matthew 5-7, Jesus went up the mountain, his disciples came up to him there, and he taught them about the blessings of the Kingdom.
Our parish church of St. Peter, the church on the hill (or symbolically, mountain), is the sacred place we come to encounter Jesus, who feeds us on his word and body. In our church, like on the mount of the Beatitudes, Jesus still teaches us about who He is and who He expects us to be. So he speaks to us this Sunday on the Beatitudes, meaning the blessed or the happy. If we pay attention, we will discover that Jesus is telling us how fortunate we are to be who and where we are. He is telling us we are his disciples, and he is our Lord. He also tells us the characteristics and attitudes expected of his followers. What should be our attitude to life and people?
As people who are in a good place in life and are blessed, our values should upend those accepted by the world. The attitude of a believer, no matter what circumstances they find themselves in the world, should be that of hope in the joy of the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, we should be meek, poor in spirit, peacemakers, righteous in our conduct, merciful, enduring, longsuffering, and so forth. Those values should always characterize us, no matter our situation.
The next time you drive up to the "church on the hill," or any Catholic church for that matter, remember that you are going to Jesus, who will teach you the right attitude to life. Jesus always teaches through the readings, especially in the Gospel and the homily. So listen attentively to what Jesus will teach you about the quality he expects of his followers in the world. For example, are you being called this Sunday to wear the attitude of humility, peacemaker, or mercy?
NB: The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Thursday will also be observed as World Day for Consecrated Life. Therefore, please endeavor to attend mass if you can. Mass will honor and offer an opportunity to pray for those who have chosen to follow Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels. I fit into that category; I'm a religious order priest. Also, on Friday, on the feast of St. Blaise, I will give the blessing of throats after the 8:00 am mass in the historic church.
In His Joy,
Fr. Bernard, OP