Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: What was Jesus Thinking?
- Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13. God shall leave behind a people humble and lowly, the remnant of Israel.
- 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. God chose people absurd, weak and despised, so that no one could boast before God but rather find in God their wisdom, justice, sanctification and redemption.
- Matthew 5: 1-12. By means of the beatitudes the disciples are instructed, that in weeping they can rejoice in God and that in single-heartedness they can see God.
Thoughts for your consideration: by Fr. Phil Paxton
In Sunday’s Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear Jesus speak what is commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. As we reflect on the Beatitudes, it might be best to look at how Matthew introduces them: “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying…” In speaking about those who are blessed, Jesus teaches us about God.
One of the things Jesus teaches us in the Beatitudes is that God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus’ words are so familiar to us, but we can only wonder what their impact might have been on the crowd who came to hear Him. Jesus’ words would have sounded radical to the people who were there. In fact, if we look at two of the Beatitudes that Jesus speaks, we may realize how radical His words sound today.
The first Beatitude on which I would like to focus is perhaps one of the hardest to understand in our society: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” The word “meek” causes us so much difficulty! In our society, to be meek implies letting others take advantage of you. Our society values standing up for one’s self. In a country (the U.S.) where territory was obtained either by violence or by wealth, meekness seems contrary to much of what we value and hold dear. The innovator or entrepreneur could not have gotten anywhere if they were too “meek” to seize an opportunity.
So what is Jesus talking about here? As I reflect upon this Beatitude, I see being “meek” as practicing nonviolence. To be meek means to refuse to do harm to others. To be meek means to be aware of the needs of the other; not to seek domination of them. Perhaps that doesn’t help much, since nonviolence seems to have fallen out of fashion. Those who refuse to condemn or attack others are seen as lacking conviction.
And yet, if we look at those throughout history who have chosen nonviolence as a way of life (the two most accessible examples being Gandhi and King), we see there is nothing further from the truth. If we look at Jesus, do we really see a lack of conviction as He carried His Cross for us? Do we really see weakness as He forgave those who were putting Him to death? If not, then why do we turn away so readily from what Jesus is teaching us?
Just as troublesome is the following Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” While there is spoken a desire for peace in the midst of war and terror, I’m not sure that those who actually strive to make peace are referred to as “children of God.” Again, those who seek to build bridges between groups or cross the barriers that divide people are seem as foolhardy or wishy-washy. Others who work for justice in order to obtain peace are often seen as irritating or irrelevant.
While Jesus did not hold back from speaking the truth, and while He often frustrated the plans of those who were against Him, Jesus did make peace by reconciling us with God, and showing us how to be reconciled with each other. Is Jesus really irrelevant for us? Perhaps that is not as rhetorical a question as it seems.
Are we willing to learn from Jesus? Are we willing to live contrary to the wisdom of the world and live according to the wisdom of the Gospel? Those are the questions with which these and the rest of the Beatitudes confront us. To be meek and to make peace flow out of sharing the love we have been given in Christ Jesus. They are not always easy to do, but Jesus does promise that we will be blessed, and God is faithful, providing us with what we need to do His will. Thanks be to God!
May God continue to bless us all, and may He bless others through us.