Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear the Beatitudes, the stirring opening to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God, and begins by considering what kind of people will enter and participate in this kingdom. They are the poor in spirit, the meek, the clean of heart, the peacemakers. We hear both Zephaniah and Paul echo this, as God specifically chooses the weak and the lowly to be God’s agents in ushering in the reign of God. By living with humility and integrity, their hearts are open to being transformed by the grace of God. We too are called to live in this way. Jesus invites us to be people with open hearts, to receive God’s blessing. And working through us, God may bless all of creation.
QUESTIONS OF POWER
All of today’s readings, especially the Gospel passage from Matthew, claim that God honors the poor and the lowly, and promise God’s blessing in the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus. Many of those who encountered Jesus, and later Paul, thought that this talk of the meek inheriting the earth was a lot of foolishness. Isn’t it obvious that the “powerful,” those with military, economic, and social power, are running things?
Paul seems to say that we must first understand the nature and purpose of power. Because of Christ, the power derived from self-serving human structures will fade sooner or later. Lasting power comes only from God; power that provides care for others and heals divisions between us. Worldly power is of real value, but is to be exercised responsibly, in service only to God’s purposes. This is the kind of power that in the end really matters.
The meek and the pure of heart seem to understand this most clearly. Because they are free of the burden of protecting their own power, they may more fully reveal the truth of God’s power.
THE NEXT STEP
What might it take to become poor in spirit and pure in heart? Today’s Gospel introduces the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7), which explores this in detail. The Sermon suggests that learning to open our hearts to trust in God is fundamental. The sermon serves as a call to enter a journey of learning to place our lives in God’s hands.
Consider taking some time to read the entire sermon, in one sitting. Listen for the stirrings of the Spirit. As you read, you might ask what is most reassuring and what is most challenging for you at this time in your life. What invites you to reflect more deeply? What invites you to take action as the next step in your journey?
Today’s Readings: Zeph 2:3; 3:12–13; Ps 146:6–10; 1 Cor 1:26–31; Mt 5:1–12a