FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Reflection for January 29, 2023
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12–13 | Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 | 1 Corinthians 1:26–31 | Matthew 5:1-12
On this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we will learn lessons on humility as acceptance of God's Lordship, power in weakness, and love as going beyond the minimum.
Ludovico Ang, billionaire tycoon, was visiting a church and was asked to give his testimony. He said, “I have a fine family, twenty large mansions, a successful business empire of ten companies and a good reputation. I have plenty of money so I can support some ministries and outreach program very generously. Various universities and organizations want me on their board of directors. I have good health and almost unlimited opportunities. What more could I ask from God?” As he paused for effect, a voice shouted from the back of the auditorium, “How about asking Him for a good dose of humility?”
You must be humble Jeff, always remember to be humble.”
My mother would often repeat this phrase to me, reminding me in Filipino that kababaang-loob is part of the Christian journey, and that I must seek humility in all that I do and say.
What can we take from this reading? Perhaps a call and reminder from God that He is in fact Lord of All. Today, society is taking great liberty to craft God in their own image, forgetting that it is they who were crafted in His image. To embrace the revealed Truth that we are created in God's image and likeness, requires humility. It requires humility to admit that God is Lord of one's life. It requires humility to submit your will to the will of God, even though God's will might be challenging you to change your ways, your thoughts, or even your heart. Yes, God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way. We are called to be holy as God is holy, but we cannot achieve holiness on our efforts alone. We need God's assistance, and accepting help from anyone, including God, is an act of humility. Don't let pride stand in the way of becoming the saint God called and created you to be. Those who are humble before the Lord, who seek justice and humility will be sheltered by the Lord.
A Lion lay asleep in the forest, his great head resting on his paws. A timid little Mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and in her fright and haste to get away, ran across the Lion's nose. Roused from his nap, the Lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.
"Spare me!" begged the poor Mouse. "Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you." The Lion was much amused to think that a Mouse could ever help him. But he was generous and finally let the Mouse go. Some days later, while stalking his prey in the forest, the Lion was caught in the toils of a hunter's net. Unable to free himself, he filled the forest with his angry roaring. The Mouse knew the voice and quickly found the Lion struggling in the net. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, she gnawed it until it parted, and soon the Lion was free. You laughed when I said I would repay you," said the Mouse. Now you see that even a Mouse can help a Lion. There is power in weakness.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul pointed out that many Christians in Corinth were still full of pride and considered themselves better than others. We see there that a person does not have to be a top student or come from an ‘upper-class’ background to be saved. In fact, says Paul, God delights to save ordinary people to put to shame those in the world who think they are so clever. (vs 27) And He chooses people who are weak (weak in power and influence, weak in their own opinion of themselves, and perhaps even weak in faith) to put to shame those who brag about how strong or important they are. Why does God do that? It’s obvious that God doesn’t want us to be full of ourselves, but to rather take pride in all that He has done for us in and through Christ Jesus His Son.
One Day Mother Teresa took a woman off the streets in Calcutta. She had sores infested with bugs. Mother Teresa cleaned and dressed her sores while the woman never stopped shrieking and even using swear words and insults. Finally, the woman asked Mother Teresa, "Sister, why do you do this? Not everyone behaves like you. Who taught you?" Mother Teresa replied, "My God taught me." The woman said she wanted to know her God. Mother Teresa kissed her on the forehead and said, "You know my God. My God is called love."
The Gospel tells us who are considered saints. What does it mean to be holy? How can one live a holy life? In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us that in order to be holy, we must go beyond the minimum. He has come to teach us how to go beyond the minimum requirements of the Law and to respond to others with love. True love of God and neighbor begins in the heart and has its value from this interior disposition. Jesus wants us to be "mabuti" (hesed) and not merely "mabait" (parush). If one does not physically attack or injure his neighbor, he or she is "mabait". If one works to promote peace and reconciliation, he or she is "mabuti”. If a husband does not cheat on his wife, he is "mabait". If a husband makes an effort to say, “I love you,” or ask, “How are you today?”, he is "mabuti." When we let our children get away with cussing or saying bad words because we don't want to hurt them, we are parents who are "mabait." If we discipline them and make them realize the seriousness of their deed, we are parents who are "mabuti." Jesus is looking for something far deeper than legal observances. He wants us to be motivated by love, to live loving lives, to care and to unselfishly give of ourselves to others and to our Father in heaven. This is the path to holiness. Our Lord points out that obeying the "letter of the Law” is a matter of physical action, whereas obeying the “spirit of the Law” requires more than just outward actions. Ang nagbabait-baitan, mapupunta sa langit-langitan. Fake saints are bound to counterfeit heaven. Do we simply obey rules, or do we choose to live in love and concern for others? The Church reminds us today that our history is full of people who lived the beatitudes. They are the flesh-and-blood examples that being "mabuti" actually do produce incomparable joy in life.
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Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum