HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13/ Psalm 146 /1Corinthians 1:26-31/ Matthew 5:1-12
AGORSOR Aaron Agbeshie
THEME: True values in life
Today, we celebrate our nothingness before our creator. What do we have that we have not been given? All that we are and have belongs to the Lord. An acceptance of this fact will make us humble and accept one another. We can only come face to face with this reality when we put into practice the true values in Life. Values remain the same. In other words, they are objective. There are no middle ways to living out our Christian values.
St Paul says “Yet whatever was to my profit I have considered loss for the sake of Christ… for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and I regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith…” (Philippians 3:7-10). We are invited to seek true righteousness which comes through faith in Christ Jesus only.
The Gospel reading of today invites us to that true righteousness which Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes Christian character that flows from within and not from outward show of righteousness. The Beatitudes, therefore, describes the attitudes that a Christian ought to have in his daily life.
To begin with, Jesus invites us to an attitude towards our very selves. He says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). For Jesus, to be poor in spirit means to be humble, to have a correct estimate of oneself. For Paul says “ For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” ( Romans 12:3). To be poor in spirit is the direct opposite of the world’s attitude of self- praise and self- assertion. It is not a false humility that says, “I am not worth anything; I cannot do anything!” It is being honest about ourselves namely accepting ourselves, knowing ourselves and trying to be ourselves to the greater glory of God.
Secondly, the Beatitudes reminds us of our attitude towards the world. It is not easy to be a dedicated Christian in this world. Our society is not a friend to God or God’s children. As we read the Beatitudes, we find that they represent an outlook radically different from that of the world. The world praises pride, not humility. The world endorses sin, especially if you get away with it. The world is at war with God, while God is seeking to reconcile His enemies and make them His children. We must expect to be persecuted if we are living as God wants us to live. But we must be sure that our suffering is not due to our own foolishness or disobedience.
However, after a period of earthly trials comes God’s eternal reward. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). God fearing and God loving people must expect to be misunderstood. There are people who cannot stand excellence in others. They must destroy those whose lives are a reproach to them. That is what persecution is all about. Never have there been people who do the will of God free from it. Out Lord promises eternal reward to those who persevere till the end. This is because the Lord demands of us faithfulness even until death (Romans 2:10b).
The Beatitudes seem beyond our human capabilities. But in the Second reading, St. Paul gives us hope. Paul assures us that we do not need to be perfect to live the values of the Beatitudes. This why St. Paul makes it clear to the Corinthians that “Not many of you are wise… not many are influential… surely not many are well cultured. Yet God chose what /is foolish in the world to shame what is wise...” (1Corinthians 1:26-27). Therefore, even God knows how frail we are, yet he chose us to manifest his glory. Today, our prayer should be “Lord, though frail we be, by your kind hand were we made.
The very first statement of the Beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The prophet Zephaniah had explained who the poor were- the ‘Anawin’ of the Hebrew. They are not necessarily those in dire poverty but they do have that poverty that allows no arrogance. They are the humble of the earth. “They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue” (Zephaniah 3:13). The poor in spirit are people of integrity and humility.
In sum, “…What man thinks important, God holds in contempt” (Luke 16:15b). We are invited to bring our values into line with the values Christ teaches us in the Beatitudes. This will enable us to hold important what God holds important and show contempt only where God holds contempt. The lessons of the Beatitudes mean nothing if they remain only in print. The people of the world can read what these values mean only in the lives of those who profess to follow it.