January 29, 2023 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/012923.cfm)
How do we understand being Blessed? We usually think of a life that is blessed on the level of having material wealth, success, prosperity – like having a good family, a prosperous business, a successful career or a good paying job, or having a good health. We also believe that being blessed has something to do with having power and influence that a person possesses, with privileges and perks that we enjoy.
Thus, as it was in the ancient times and until today, poverty is never a blessing, being in sorrow and in grief is never a blessing. Being powerless and oppressed, being sick, being rejected and persecuted is never a blessing. If we are experiencing such life, we consider ourselves to be cursed, weak and insignificant.
However, the readings this Sunday are quite opposite from the standard of being blessed that we usually believe. Our human understanding of being blessed is different from God. Indeed, there is a need for us to understand being blessed and our life as Christians from Jesus’ perspective.
The Gospel of Matthew gave us that perspective of Jesus that the Lord wants us to recognize and to learn. Matthew tells us that Jesus saw the crowds. Not just a crowd but crowds of people composed of groups of poor and rich, Pharisees, Sadducees and common Jews, sick and old, men, women, children, beggars, merchants, pickpockets and spectators, his own disciples and others who followed him faithfully.
And Jesus saw the many realities of the people of his time. What he saw was not just limited with what can be seen from the outside. Jesus saw and realized the anguish of the people and the cause of their miseries perpetrated by those who took advantage of the weak and powerless. Jesus saw and realized how the social evils of greed, hatred, and indifference contributed to the senseless sufferings of the people. Jesus saw and realized how the people felt abandoned, in need of mercy and love, in search of justice and salvation, longing for a blessed life.
This prompted Jesus to express what he saw and what was in the heart of God for His people. Jesus began to teach while sitting on a mountain which gave him the perspective of the Father. This Sermon on the Mount, as this is commonly called, is indeed quite symbolic. From this symbolism of Jesus teaching from the mount, the Lord evokes a different perspective of being blessed. Not anymore from our human perspective and standard, but from God’s eyes.
In God’s perspective, the blessed ones are those who are poor, who are mourning and sick, the humble and unassuming, the powerless and merciful, those who are contented in life and those who are persecuted. But why? It is because in their poverty and difficulty, in their powerlessness and nothingness that they also realize their dependence and need of God. Indeed, such insecurities in life bring us to understand that we are so small in this world and we are in need of God’s grace. That is why, Jesus addressed these Beatitudes to the people, assuring them of his presence and assuring them of a blessed life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Though the Kingdom is to be fully manifested later, yet, being blessed is already experienced in the here and now.
Thus, the very presence of God in our life is what makes us “blessed.” Since God favors those who are weak, poor, suffering, the sick and struggling in life, they are the ones who are blessed because they understand their dependence and need of God. God comes to us when we are ready to accept God in our life and to let God be our God there in our poverty and weaknesses.
This is what Prophet Zephaniah reminds us in the first reading to seek the Lord which can only be possible through a humble heart that recognizes God’s presence and power. An arrogant and self-satisfied heart will never acknowledge God and thus, can be very vicious to people around.
“God comes to us when we are ready to accept God in our life and to let God be our God there in our poverty and weaknesses.”Tweet
Moreover, Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians expressed powerfully the wisdom and favor of God. He says to us, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.”
This indeed is a warning to those who in the standard of the world are blessed such as the self-satisfied and self-absorbed, the corruption-driven-rich, the powerful, the popular and the influential. Why? It is because the danger lies in the attitude of the heart that becomes independent from God, a heart that rejects God’s mercy and love. In fact, the Lord warns us when we tend to accumulate more wealth for ourselves at the expense of the poor, or when we gather fame and influence at the expense of others.
Such attitude of the heart is filled with arrogance and self-centeredness that has no need of God. True enough, when we are so filled with ourselves and too satisfied of what we have gained and achieved, we don’t need God anymore. Our successes and we, ourselves, have become ‘gods.’ This leads us to worship our achievements, wealth, our power and ourselves. But then, all of these will corrupt us because we will never be satisfied. We will thirst and hunger for more wealth, recognition and fame which will also lead to our own destruction and those who are around us and those blocking our way to gain for more.
Thus, through these Beatitudes, God invites us to claim that we are blessed and can bless others even when we are poor and insecure, in grief and in search for justice, in need of mercy and in showing mercy.
This also calls us that as we understand being blessed in God’s perspective, then, the material wealth that we have gained, the influence and fame that we have received and the successes that we have achieved are signs of God’s grace and generosity. When we have these, may it lead us to humble ourselves and to recognize that these are gifts and we ought to share them to others. Thus, if you have received much, share the blessing to those who are in need. If you are enjoying success in life, share the experience with those who failed. If you have power and influence over others, then, use them to liberate the oppressed and to work for justice. If you have been shown mercy despite your sins, then, let that mercy flow in your relationships by becoming merciful to others. It is in this way that the Kingdom of Heaven will truly be present among us, and that we ourselves will not just be blessed but will also be a blessing to our community. Kabay pa.