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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 29, 2023

Sister Clare Carr, OSB shares a reflection on the scripture readings: Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13; First Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12

Recently, there has been much excitement over the series called “The Chosen.” It is almost a cult of interest in the life and portrayal of Jesus. At first, I didn’t want to get involved in the series for several reasons. I hate waiting for sequels and I found getting online not always easy to view the programming.

However, one of our sisters in community has been deeply touched by the series and I decided I needed to see what so excited her. Thus, I began to view the first two seasons. Many have viewed it. I found it moving, clever, and inspirational.  One of my favorites was the preparation for the Sermon on the Mount that Jonathan Roumie, who portrays Jesus, enacts. Jesus, looking over the camp of his disciples who are often at odds, begins to see the beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely, because of me. Rejoice and be glad.

The character Matthew is scribing for Jesus in this episode, as he shares what he wants to say to his followers. And Matthew askes him, “why this message in particular?” Jesus indicates to him that where you find the poor, the mourning, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the peacemaker, the persecuted for righteousness, you will find Him, for the beatitudes are a portrait of who Jesus is. They are a guide to Him.

And I thought YES!  Blessed are the Poor, the “anawim” meaning the bent ones, for they know their vulnerability.  Blessed are the Humble for they are rooted in the word humas, earth, dust, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

And later in the passage Jesus speaks of the clean, the pure of heart, for they are guileless, without deception, and they shall see God. 

These beatitudes are good news. The good news is that God does not see as we do. We seek happiness in possessions, power, and knowledge. Meister Eckhart says, “To be full of things is to be empty of God. To be empty of things is to be full of God.” Those who seek the God of the heart know that they have all that they need. For God is in everything. For if you “look for nothing but God, nothing or no one can disturb you.”  (Eckhart again).

The beatitudes remind us again that God reveals himself in the meek, the merciful, and the peacemaker.

These are paths to the kingdom. That is why each begins with Blessed or Happy. A common word in the Old Testament, which means a compliment, implying a person has successfully embarked on the journey and that the kingdom is near to that person. We have “two ways.”  Either to follow the path of the vulnerable or the powerful. Two ways that exist in each of us, to be about the Kingdom or for self-aggrandizement, ego, and control.  

We welcome the kingdom and contribute to building it up each according to our humble means. Jesus says in essence: Look, you have before you some who are poor, some who are meek, some who are afflicted, some who hunger and thirst for justice, some who are merciful, some with clean hearts, some who are peacemakers, and some who are undergoing persecution. While these may not correspond to the world’s idea of happiness, those who live these attitudes or circumstances are best positioned to welcome the building of the kingdom.

We are to find the kingdom where we least expect it: in the poverty of spirit, in meekness, in tears, in the hunger and thirst for justice in persecution. This humanly paradoxical insight ought to stir within us overwhelming thanksgiving.  For our weakness becomes the raw material for the kingdom of God.