Sunday 15 January 2017

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

From a young age, we were constantly taught and reminded to be strong and stand up for our rights. We were exposed to an environment where we must be the best, never lose out, be aggressive so that we protect what we think is rightfully ours, and to be rough and tough to prevent others from taking advantage of us. All these things taught us to be "wise" in worldly affairs, so that we would be able to live and prosper in this world.

However, today's Gospel paints us a different set of values: the values of the Kingdom or the beatitudes. Instead of being the best, never lose out, aggressive, rough and tough; the Gospel tells us: "Happy are the poor in spirit; happy the gentle; happy those who mourn; happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right; happy the merciful, happy the pure in heart, happy the peacemakers, happy the persecuted." It seems as if it is the weak, the powerless, the gentle and the ones who patiently endure suffering or persecution that are blessed. If we were to think like the rest of the world, then of course such values seem hard or even impossible to understand or even follow. But if we look at the second reading, St Paul reminds us: "it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.” When we allow ourselves to be consumed with power, violence, hatred and revenge, we will only experience the same things – power, violence, hatred and revenge.

So how do we get ourselves out from a potential mess and a vicious circle of fear, distrust and self-preservation? Jesus gives the answer, by teaching us an alternative set of values in today's Gospel. These values will transform our world into the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of peace, joy and love. Jesus counters the values of greed with values of simplicity; values of power with values of weakness; values of seeking revenge with values of mercy and forgiveness; values of dishonesty with values of honesty; values of violence with values of peace. Some may say: "But all these values sound impossible or improbable for us humans to carry out. Jesus is different, for He is God." But we must not forget that Jesus is God who became one of us. Throughout His life and ministry, He showed us how to be humble, powerless, non-violent; living a life of poverty, being gentle, hungering for righteousness, showing mercy, being a peacemaker and finally enduring persecution, suffering and even death on the cross. It is not impossible or improbable to do, if we let Jesus be our guide and walk in His ways.

So today, as the first reading tells us, let us "Seek the Lord, all you, the humble of the earth, who obey his commands. Seek integrity, seek humility: you may perhaps find shelter on the day of the anger of the Lord." When we strive to do so and live in His ways, then we will discover that it is when we are weak, we are truly strong.

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