BULLETIN: January 29,2023
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our readings this week all speak of the distinctive characteristics of the people God gathers to achieve God’s purposes. The deep communion of love that God envisions requires a community that is humble and lowly, as Zephaniah describes. God chooses the weak and foolish to reveal God’s strength and wisdom, as Paul says. And in the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches that a people who know their weakness and vulnerability can most fully place their trust in God and work for a just world. As Christians, we believe God will fully heal our world when Christ returns. But Christ also invites us to experience a foretaste of this future right now, through our life in Christian community, and in our work of peacemaking and justice-seeking in the world. Our poverty in spirit can enable us to be both recipients and instruments of the “kingdom of heaven” here and now.
THE BLESSED COMMUNITY
We turn to the first action of Jesus’ public ministry described by Matthew—Jesus preaching to the crowds in what we call the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon begins with today’s Gospel passage, the Beatitudes. Having just called his first disciples to form a community, Jesus begins to spell out what this community is all about. The Beatitudes lay the foundation, describing the primary values and practices, and the core identity of this community.
Jesus tells his followers, first and foremost, that they are blessed by God. The community will reveal its blessed character through its humility, meekness, and hunger for justice. Knowing they are loved as God’s children, they will have open and pure hearts, free to be merciful, and they will be able to endure suffering gracefully. Listening anew to the Beatitudes, we remember how far we fall short of Jesus’ vision. But we know God has gathered us, and continues to transform us, to receive the fullness of blessing.
WHOM GOD HONORS
In Jesus’ time, honor and shame were key markers for who is up and who is down in their society. Typically, those with wealth and power over others were to be honored. And in our own time, often we find ourselves drawn strongly toward having more abundance, control, and options to choose from. We avoid vulnerability and limitations. But Jesus says in the Beatitudes that the poor and meek are truly blessed, that is, honorable and privileged by God. How can this be?
Perhaps Jesus is first exposing the opposites to the poor and meek, the “rich in spirit.” These develop such confidence in themselves, based on achievement or inherited privilege, that they isolate themselves from God, and either ignore or exploit others. Jesus also knew that the humble in heart realize that they cannot build an illusory self-affirmation, so they can be most open to God’s affirmation of them. They can then become more deeply empowered to participate in God’s work. God blesses and honors the open-hearted.
Today’s Readings: Zep 2:3; 3:12–13; Ps 146:6–7, 8–9, 9–10; 1 Cor 1:26–31; Mt 5:1–12a