4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Jan 30, 2023
Last weekend, we tuned into God’s desire that Christian heal the divisions among them by working, praying, and dialoguing together with other Christian denominations, with an aim toward restoring unity that has been lost.
This weekend, we’re going to tune into how God turns the tables on worldly understandings of success and fulfillment and gives us a new set of core values by which we can measure our degree of belonging to God’s kingdom.
To get us primed, I’ll share with you this joke:
A friend was in front of me, coming out of church one day, and the priest was standing at the door shaking hands. When he saw my friend, he grabbed him by the arm and pulled him aside.
The priest then said to him, “Young man, you need to join the Army of the Lord!”
My friend replied, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Father.”
Puzzled, the priest asked, “Then how come I don’t see you here every Sunday?”
My friend whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.” (from jokes.christiansunite.com)
There’s nothing secret about being a Christian! It’s one of the most public parts of our lives that we want others to see! In fact, Jesus’ proclamation of the Beatitudes, also known as the Sermon on the Mount, was preached on a hillside not far from Capernaum, for anyone and everyone to hear and accept. It most likely, lasted for a few days! We only have the highlights of what Jesus said recorded in today’s passage.
(Why did he preach this sermon? One of the purposes, to enable the Jews to see the corollary between the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the freed slaves on Mount Sinai with Jesus giving of the Beatitudes to his followers.)
(Difference between the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, or as I like to call them God’s Top Ten and the Nine Be-Happy-Attitudes — thou shalt not vs. thou shalt)
(More challenging to do something specific than to not do something and be left to do whatever we want outside of the one prohibition.)
Jesus sets the stage; Everyone’s waiting to hear what Jesus thinks are qualities of a kingdom-bound servant of God.
His 12 disciples are with him (their feelings of importance, pride, and possessiveness of Jesus, their anticipation of fame or riches)
Jesus addresses all of these misguided expectations in the Be-happy-attitudes and I’m sure, surprised many who heard them.
Far from bringing fame and fortune,
Far from bringing prestigious social standing or power,
far from appealing to intellectuals and the educated,
far from promising prosperity and power and other worldly values,
a disciple of Jesus could be identified by two things:
-faithful, humble, heartful obedience to God and service to all, especially the poor, the
suffering, the marginalized..
(1st Reading) Prophet Zephaniah, those who seek righteousness and humility are members of God’s kingdom.
To develop these two qualities of a Kingdom-bound disciple, Jesus gives his followers a Code of Conduct that contrasts …..worldly values with godly values
…..superficial faith with authentic faith
…..OT expectations being fulfilled in the New K of G
(select one…..Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.)
Not meant to pick and choose between be-happy-attitudes…all are to be embraced.
Challenge: to reorient ourselves, re-center around the priorities of God (love of God and neighbor).
Challenge: to be of SERVICE to others, not to live as CONSUMERS. (What can the church do for me? vs What can I do for the church?)
(ex. St. Therese of the Little Flower in Kansas City, MO)
When we do, we’re BLESSED.
Outward circumstances don’t matter, when we have an abiding experience of hope and joy always in our hearts, minds, and souls.
One of the reasons why persecution can be a good thing!
Not concerned with earthly rewards,
strengthens weak or superficial faith,
serves as an example for others to follow
Ex: Jesus’ willingness to suffer and to die on a cross, to offer his life as a sacrifice for us.
Through Jesus’ crucifixion, we gain wisdom and strength
Through Jesus crucifixion, we are made right with God (sins forgiven), justified
Through Jesus’ crucifixion, we are made holy
Through that crucifixion, the penalty of our sins is paid in FULL.
St. Paul says in our 2nd reading, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1: 31b)
Next weekend, we will begin a new series based on tough love. We’ll look at how we can be like salt and light in a weary world, marred and scarred by sin, by choosing to put love in action toward those on the fringes of society or who may feel excluded from the church.
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