Reflection on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zep 2:3, 3:12-13 1 Cor. 1:31 Matthew 5:1-12
“Seek justice, seek humility …. I will leave a people humble and lowly.” Zephaniah advises the people not to suffer the feeling of powerlessness. St. Paul reinforces the message that the humble are the chosen ones who will inherit everlasting love, and St. Matthew’s very familiar, yet very profound words as to who shall inherit the kingdom of God draw for us a clear map leading to God’s kingdom and our inheritance.
Each and every one of today’s readings bring encouragement to those who are weary of hearing and seeing the drive for prestige and power in the news, on TV and on the printed page. They give hope to those who feel left out, who are struggling on a daily basis, who are the powerless in our society.
My main emphasis will be on the Gospel, where Jesus takes his disciples up the mountain to teach them further by explaining these simple truths we know as the beatitudes. As I thought to look up the meaning of “beatitudes” here are the key things I found: 1) they are considered to be a statement of grace, not law. 2) They are not intended to be ethical demands on those who are members of God’s kingdom. 3) These are not only eschatological blessings, for they imply both a present and future tense. Instead, these beatitudes give a way forward to those wanting to live alternatively to the dominant social model of power, prestige, status and control.
I offer, for us, a paraphrased version and a few simple reflections on each. Take heart, you who are weary: Rosa Parks rode the back of the bus day after day, but on this one particular day was too tired to walk to the back of the bus. Her action led to the bus boycott in Montgomery and changed the rules for everyone. In more recent times, we have been working against pipelines that are damaging to the environment, one more letter, one more protest. Take heart, you who are weary, for the kingdom of heaven shall be your home.
Take heart, you who grieve: you who grieve the loss of life in Ukraine and elsewhere because of war, you who mourn lives lost because of gun violence in so many areas of our country, you who mourn the loss of lives in our own communities and families, for all will be well and you will be comforted.
Take heart, you who are humble: who are gentle and trusting, who are not grasping and clutching, who do not have to be first, who do not take out your frustrations and emotions on others, for you are a part of how the kingdom of heaven is coming to earth, and it will be yours.
Take heart, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for those who ache for the world to be made right, for just laws to be enacted, for the elimination of hunger for all people, your thirst will be quenched forever.
Take heart, you who extend mercy: for you who treat others without blame or judgment, you will be on the receiving end of this amazing gift of mercy.
Take heart, you who are pure of heart (who do what is honorable): you who have a clean window in your soul, who not only change your actions and what you do and how you act on the outside, but also change your heart on the inside, for you will be able to see Who God really is.
Take heart, you who seek peace and pursue it: for peacemaking and peacekeeping is God’s family business and to be bridge-builders requires taking peaceful action wherever possible, for you are an heir of the kingdom of God. Take heart, you who suffer for the sake of what is right in the eyes of God: There is a price for being a disciple of Jesus. We know many who have been threatened, harmed, put down, all in the name of following their pure heart, of following justice. But would they do it again? Would we? I think we all know the answer. Hold on, for the kingdom of heaven is nearer than we know.