HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
?Zeph 2:3; 3:12-13
HOMILY: LIVING IN GOD’S BLESSEDNESS!
The Gospel reading of today leaves one wondering what to wish for. Everyone desires God’s blessings. However, some of the blessings found in the Beatitudes seem to come at a very high prize.
How terribly we dread poverty, and how so dearly we desire the kingdom of heaven, yet Jesus says “blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”. How soothing it feels to be comforted, but would one wish to be comforted at the cost of mourning? Mourning who? Given the option, our most likely reaction would be “God forbid!” Regarding persecution, we would most certainly not opt to be persecuted for any reason for that matter, not to talk of when one is innocent and makes sincere effort to be righteous and yet people persecute him, it surely is a painful experience. Now are we to wish for this situation of persecution all the time to receive the blessedness of God’s kingdom?
Is there no way God can separate these desirables from the undesirables?
One thing is certain, EVERYONE WANTS TO LIVE IN GOD’S BLESSEDNESS! If anyone would opt out for fear of these undesirables, what would be his lot? A life without blessings? Would the undesirables go away just because one opts out of God’s blessings? The odds are that the undesirables would be unimaginably worse when one is stripped of any blessings!
It all means that there is a missing link somewhere, something we need to know about the beatitudes. It is all buried in the Scriptures.
Taking a look at the readings of today, one thing stands out, what greatness God can manifest in the midst of hopelessness. In Zephania, God declares his comfort for the remnants of Israel. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he attests to God’s choice of the foolish to shame the wise.
The Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes in Matthew is placed at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He had just called together his disciples, not from the high and mighty, but from the simplest of men. To those who were uneducated, only skilled in the art of fishing, he says, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. They must have wondered how that were to be possible, embarrassed by their poverty; materially, spiritually, intellectually and otherwise. This is where Matthew situates the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry!
Firstly, Jesus saw the crowds, then he took the disciples up a mountain, sat down and began to teach them.
Every word here seems to be calculated. The crowd was first presented. This sea of men at once shows that the task of fishing men was already at hand! Jesus then goes up the mountain. The mountain in symbolic in Biblical parlance. It is a place of prayer, where man seeks to unite with God. Moses was a man of the mountain. He would go up the mountain to stand before God and intercede for his people. But Jesus goes up the mountain, and instead of standing he sits down. Sitting down is the popular posture of a teacher among the Jews. Sitting on a high mountain points to Jesus’ throne as the Son of God. Then from his throne he begins to recount Blessings upon the people. He was not declaring earthly blessings, but blessings of God’s kingdom. This is also his assertion of his place as the Son of God.
Looking carefully at the Beatitudes, Jesus was not manufacturing sufferings and pains, only to accompany them with blessings! He was rather asserting God’s presence in the life of the afflicted. Sitting on the high mountain with a full view of the crowds shows God’s full view of everyone. Then Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”. Putting it in the present shows that the kingdom of God was already being made manifest. Jesus himself brings the kingdom to the poor! Where the kingdom of God is mentioned, Jesus uses the present.
For those who mourn, Jesus assures them of comfort, however, he does not impose deaths and sorrows in order to comfort, rather, he comforts the sorrowful, for his coming is to free men from sorrows and death! …And so with the other beatitudes, every good work has a reward. God is seeing everyone and everything from his throne. He sees every tear that is shed, every pain, every good work and every persecution. His graces and blessings are always assured.
So what does it mean to live in God’s blessedness? It means the awareness of a Christian of God continuous and abiding presence in our lives. It assures us of the blessings of God in every situation. When we are poor, we are aware of how infinitely rich we are in Christ, when we are in sorrow, we are aware of God’s comforting and loving presence, when we are persecuted, we are not discouraged because we are sure of His eternal rewards. Awareness of his presence drives us to show mercy and do good at all times knowing our eternal rewards.
So let us ask ourselves these questions: what are those painful and difficult situations facing us in life? Are we aware of God’s eternal presence? Are we living in God’s blessedness?
Can we stand up to every situation knowing that God is always on His throne?
The answers to these questions are all we need in life. May God bless his words in our hearts and keep us always in his blessedness through Christ our Lord, amen.
Fr. Precious Ezeh