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January 30: Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Zep 2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Cor 1:26-31; Mt. 5:1-12
The beatitudes, a radical way of life and total dependence on God, help us to focus on the central theme of this Sunday. In 1985, Mother Teresa went to the UN on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. Before addressing the Assembly she gave a prayer card with the Prayer of St. Francis for peace. She then took the podium and the UN delegates prayed aloud with her before giving her address. She made no apologies and nobody protested, because Mother Teresa was a wonderful visible witness in her own life. Her simplicity and love was seen in her actions for the poor, the destitute, the lonely, the abandoned infants and children. She was an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ who lived a radical way of life. This story, helps us to illustrate the central theme of the readings that offer us two challenges 1) a challenge to live a radical way of life that appears to the world as weakness and foolishness; and 2) a challenge to live in total dependence on God. In the Gospel, Jesus offers the Good News that those who embrace these challenges as a way of life, will find a path to the kingdom. The readings reveal a God who loves the poor, the lowly, the oppressed and those who are nothing in the eyes of the world. In the first reading from the Book of Zephaniah, we are told that the Lord protects the simple, the humble and the righteous. The key to understanding that reading is the word “remnant”. It comes from the Hebrew word anawim (pronounced ann-a-weem), which describes the “poor ones” who remained faithful to God in most difficult times. These humble people became known as the anawim or the poor lowly ones, marginalized because of their faithfulness. We are told that the Lord is faithful to such people, because they totally depend on God. Similarly, Paul in the second reading argues that God chooses the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and chooses the weak of the world to shame the strong. God chooses the lowly and the despised of the world, those who count for nothing.
The Gospel draws our attention to the Beatitudes in which Jesus teaches about the blessedness of those who are nothing in the eyes of the world. Here Jesus outlines the spiritual values that lead to the kingdom. The term “beatitude” means happiness, blessedness, good fortune, not in terms having, but in terms of being. The Beatitudes are a call to live a radical way of life that appears to the world to be weakness and foolishness; they invite us to dare to be different and not simply entering the rat race of this world or doing things the way others do; the beatitudes offer us a spirituality of deep awareness, that all we have and are belong to God; that we are all called to be the remnant that remains faithful and humble; a remnant that is merciful and forgives always; a remnant of the peacemakers in a violent world; a remnant of those who stand for and protect human life. The beatitudes point out that God's love and blessing does not follow human standards of wisdom and judgment. In the face of what may seem to be a bleak picture in the media, there is always good news; in the face of sadness, there is happiness and in the face of despair, there is hope for those who totally depend on God; in the face of the moral minority there is truth. To those followers who were disheartened by negative attitudes to their way of life, Jesus spoke words of comfort and consolation. Jesus still gives that message today. That message touching on peoples’ actual situation was truly Good News and most encouraging. Today’s readings might remind us of some women and men who discovered the message of the beatitudes and lived it, even if they had to pay a price for their radical way of life. Another example is St. Francis of Assisi who by his radical way of life, both challenged and changed many people’s lives. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The beatitudes are not a program, but a way of life; a radical way of the Beatitudes; a life of genuine witness that appears to be weakness and foolishness to the world. 2) That radical way of life, is a spirituality of total dependence on God and a sure path to kingdom. 3) The choice to live a radical way of life sets our faith on fire, leading us to a deeper relationship with God. That choice is yours.
©2011 John S. Mbinda