Zep. 2:3, 3:12-13; Ps. 146, 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Mt. 5:1-12a
(Audio recorded live, 28 January 2023)
During this week’s Bible Study, the group focused on the significance of being poor in spirit, meek, and humble of heart. Each of our readings focus on these qualities, which Jesus praises in the Sermon on the Mount, as he gives his disciples the Beatitudes. This teaching of Jesus shows the various ways in which those who are meek and humble, and seek for justice, peace, and righteousness, are blessed. There is a definite connection to the exhortation of the prophet Zephaniah, who in our first reading tells the humble of the earth to seek the Lord, the keep the law, to seek justice, and humility. The prophet addresses a specific segment of the Hebrew population, the humble of the earth, that is, the hā·ā·res, the commoners, the meek, the lowly. Zephaniah gave this prophecy just a short time before the Babylonian Exile. He shows that despite the impending doom of the exile, God will leave a remnant who will remember the covenant, keep the law, and preserve the faith. This humble and faithful core of Israelites will be the ones who ultimately help to restore Israel after the exile.
St. Paul speaks of a similar circumstance with respect to the Christian communities. He says, “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, so that no human being might boast before God.” In other words, those who are successful are tempted to boast of themselves, their own accomplishments, their own success. But, St. Paul shows how boasting in oneself has no place within the community of believers, but rather, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.” As St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me,” (Phil. 4:13) or as he says to the Colossians, “For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Col. 1:29). We see that St. Paul takes no credit for his own actions, but rather boasts only in the power of God working in him. While Paul could have made claim to his prior status as a Pharisee, he defers to the Spirit of God working through him. And so it should be likewise with all of us.
So, what about us? When we hear Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes, can we highlight moments in our life when we embodied the beatitudes? Can we say with all sincerity that we are poor in spirit? In other words, do we have a disposition of humility for the sake of others? Do we defer to others or do we focus more on ourselves? The definition of humility is: The state or character of being humble; freedom from pride and arrogance. Are we embodying these qualities? To do so means we will be blessed. Have we been mourning lately? I have spoken to several people who have recently lost a loved one, many of whom have all told me they saw their loved one in a dream, or heard their voice. Is this not a blessing? Is this not one of the ways God comforts his people? Have we been meek? Those who are meek are not interested in possessions, for they have very little. And for living without, they will inherit the land. Have we hungered and thirsted for righteousness? Are we getting fed up with the injustice and evil of the day? Do we work against it, promoting Catholic Teaching and the values that are beneficial to human flourishing? Then we shall be satisfied. Are we being merciful? We cannot expect those who oppose us to hear our side unless we are willing to forgive their errors or lack of judgment. Jesus says, “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” If we are merciful, then we shall be shown mercy. The beauty of the Beatitudes is that they apply to everything we do as Christians. Most importantly of all, when we find ourselves insulted for being followers of Jesus, we will not be far from the Kingdom of heaven.
And so, as we continue to reflect on the ways in which we embody the Beatitudes, let us be mindful of the many blessings we have already received, how our disposition does matter in the life of the Church, and most importantly, how our Blessed Lord continues to dwell with us in the Eucharist. May the communion we share unite us in a life of beatitude, fill us with the blessing of Almighty God, and make us clean of heart, for those who are clean of heart will see God.