4 Sunday A: Blessed are you

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from Zephaniah speaks of the Day of Yahweh, when God will intervene directly in the life of Israel. Zephaniah advises the people to seek God in humility and lowliness. These are necessary conditions to find God for he rejects falsehood and the proud-hearted, who believe that they can manage on their own and don’t need him. The Israelite nation had suffered decades of oppression under the Assyrian rule, the prophet now announces the arrival of salvation and liberation of the little ones who have suffered under foreign rule. This ‘Day of Yahweh’ is a time of effective action by God on behalf of his people. God is close to those who are humble and depend on him. 

Meekness is not weakness
St Clement Hofbauer of Vienna was collecting funds for orphans whose parents had died in the Napoleonic wars. He walked into a restaurant where three men were playing cards and asked them for a contribution for his good work. One of the cursed him and spat on his face. Hofbauer quietly took out his handkerchief wiped the spit from his cheek and said without the slightest sign of anger, "Now that was for me, sir. How about something for my orphans?" The abusive card player was so dumbfounded that he reached into his pocket and handed the saint all the money he had with him.
- Msgr. Arthur Tonne
In the second reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Paul is aware of the diverse groups in Corinth who boast of their superior origins and ways of living the Christian life. Paul speaks bluntly to them and points out that none of them have grounds for boasting as none of them really come from noble stock. The Christian has only one basis for trust and hope and that is Jesus who died and rose again. In comparison with the Lord of life all divisions and privileges are insignificant. Unfortunately, even today, while claiming to follow Jesus Christ, people boast of being superior to others on the basis of race, colour, caste, class, education, social standing, all insignificant factors in matters of faith. "As Scripture says, if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord." Today’s gospel portrays Jesus as an authoritative teacher, who solemnly announces the fundamentals of life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples are the primary target audience of the Sermon on the Mount but the principles are addressed beyond the immediate circle of disciples to the crowds of followers. The principles are universal. They are delivered on the mountain, the favoured place among the Israelites for encountering God. The sermon on the mount contains the essence of Christ’s teachings and the beatitudes are the essence of that essence. In the beatitudes Jesus presents a new vision of the Kingdom and invites his followers to live that vision.

A new vision for new life
A native American chief who was nearing the end of his life gathered his three sons and told them, "Do you see that mountain in the distance? I want you to journey to that mountain, climb to its summit and bring back the thing you think will be most helpful in leading our people." After several days the first son returned with a load of flint stones, used to make arrow tips and spear points. He told his father, "Our people will never live in fear of their enemies. I know where there is a mount of flint." The second son climbed the top of the mountain and found forests rich with wood for making fires. When he returned he said to his father, "Our people will never be cold in winter. I know where wood can be found in abundance to keep them warm and cook their food." The third son returned late and empty handed. He stated "When I got to the top of the mountain I found nothing worth bringing back. I searched everywhere, but the top of the mountain was barren rock and useless. Then I looked towards the horizon, far into the distance. I was astonished to see new land filled with forests and meadows, mountains and valleys, fish and animals – a land of great beauty and great peace. I brought nothing back, for the land was still far off and I didn’t have time to travel there. But I would love to go there someday; I delayed coming back because I found it very difficult to return after seeing the beauty of the land." The old chief’s eyes blazed. He grasped this third son in his arms proclaiming that he would succeed him as the new chief. He thought to himself, "The other sons brought back worthy things, necessary things. But my third son knows the way to a better land. It is important that the new chief has a vision and has seen the promised land and burns with a desire for it."
- Brian Cavanaugh in ‘Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement’
In the beatitudes it is not starvation and misery that are being blessed- these are evil things. What is being blessed is reliance on God. Those who know their need of God, and live life as He would have them live it, are truly blessed. They are the most fortunate of all people, for God will give them all that they need. Only God can fulfill our emptiness. We like to believe that we can manage our lives, that we are self sufficient, that we can make it on our own. Those who put their trust in human resources will be disappointed but those who trust in God will never be disappointed. Men and women of all ages have drawn inspiration from the Sermon on the Mount. Mahatma Gandhi drew strength and inspiration from the Beatitudes for his concept of non-violence. Martin Luther King was convinced that his struggle on behalf of the poor and the oppressed would succeed only if it was based on justice, love and forgiveness, proclaimed in the Beatitudes. All the eight beatitudes have a second line that deals with relationship with God. The first and the last pledge the Kingdom in the present to those who are poor and persecuted, while the inner six look to a final completion of God’s work for the mourning and others in the future. These beatitudes form a summary of the Christian life. We are blessed by God when we depend on him and when we strive single mindedly for justice and are willing to endure for one’s fidelity. There is a present and a future dimension to the kingdom. The poor in spirit are not merely those who find themselves in poverty but those who know they depend on God for everything and are nothing without Him. They are those who joyfully acknowledge their dependence on his goodness and mercy. The beatitudes are a challenge to focus our lives not on our achievements and ourselves but on God alone. A challenge to live more for God.

And then some
A successful businessman once was asked the secret of success. His reply summed success in three words: AND THEN SOME. He learned early in life that the difference between average people and truly successful people could be simply stated in those three words. Top people did what was expected and then some! Jesus taught the and then some principle in the Sermon on the Mount. He is saying: Go beyond what is expected! Go a little further! Let these words serve as a tonic for your spirit. Practice your faith faithfully –and then some. Give generously of your time and resources- and then some. Greet those you meet with a smile – and then some. Meet your obligations; be dependable –and then some. Do your best in all things and at all times –and then some.
- Clarence DeLoach Jr.