Theme: BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO DEPEND ON GOD; THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS THEIRS
- Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
- Psalm 145:7-10. R. Mt 5:3
- 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31
- Matthew 5:1-12
Today is the 4th Sunday of the Year. The readings today tell us to be “poor” or “humble”, that is, to depend on God! The gospel has 7 or 9 beatitudes, but the most important beatitude that underlies all the other beatitudes is the first beatitude, that is, “How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs”! (NJB)
The poor in spirit can mean those who are poor and dependent on God, or those who are rich and dependent on God, or those who are spiritually poor and dependent on God, or those who are spiritually rich and dependent on God! The important thing in all the 4 categories of people is that they dependent on God!
As I have said many times before, “humility” or “poverty”, that is, dependence on God, is the greatest virtue! Pride, that is, dependence on oneself, or on other human beings, is the greatest Sin! It is the Original Sin; it is the Mother of all sins. That is why the Devil tempted Adam and Eve to the Sin of Pride! The Devil himself fell from heaven because of the Sin of Pride (Is 14:12-14; 1 Tm 3:6), our first parents, Adam and Eve, also fell because of the sin of pride, and in the New Testament, the Jews in general, and the Scribes and Pharisees in particular, also fell because of the Sin of Pride! Pride is the Sin of the “good, holy and sinless people”!
The readings today tell us of the greatest virtue, as opposed to the greatest sin, that is, “humility” or “poverty”, as opposed to pride, that is, dependence on God, as opposed to independent of God! The gospel tells us: “How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs”! (NJB)
The first reading is from the prophet Zephaniah. Zephaniah was prophesying to Judah in the 7th century when Babylon / Assyria was a threat to Judah. Zephaniah prophesied on the “Day of the Lord” when the Lord will come as a warrior to destroy his own people! The first part of the first reading (2:3) calls Israel to conversion, that is, to be humble and to depend on God! The second part of the first reading (3:12-13) prophesies that indeed there will be a humble and lowly remnant of Israel who will depend on God, who will do no wrong, tell no lies, swear no false oaths, but who will eat and rest, and have peace!
The responsorial psalm takes up the theme of the first reading and the gospel! In fact the response of the responsorial psalm is not from the psalm itself, but it is from the gospel: “How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven”! (Mt 5:3)
The responsorial psalm is a psalm of “Trust in God the Creator and Redeemer”: “Put no trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth; that day all their planning comes to nothing. Happy those whose help is Jacob’s God, whose hope is in the Lord, their God, The maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them”! (CSB/NAB, 146:3-6)
The responsorial psalm today is from verses 7 to 10. The responsorial psalm today tells us to trust in God, to depend on God, because only God, and God alone is faithful, and can give justice to the oppressed, give food to the hungry, free the captives from prison, open the eyes of the blind, lift up those who are bowed down, and save the stranger, the widow and the orphan!
The second reading today is from the first letter to the Corinthians. In the second reading today St. Paul tells us: “if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord”! For St. Paul to boast of oneself is the “radical sin” of pride! The word “radical” comes from the Latin word “radix” meaning “root”! The “radical sin” of pride is the “root” of all the other sins! More Importantly, for St. Paul, to boast about the Lord” is to be humble and poor, that is, to acknowledge that: “we live only from God and for God”! (CSB/NAB) Again, that is, to depend on God, to obey him, and to do his will!
Today we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our Risen Lord will give us his Holy Spirit, and St. Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit makes us call God “Abba”, “Father”, totally dependent on God, as a child is totally dependent on his father! This is spiritual childhood! This is to be childlike, to be humble, to be poor, and to be dependent on God!
In fact, this is how we should pray the “Our Father”, the “Lord’s Prayer”! We pray the “Our Father” as a spiritual child totally dependent on God our Father, asking God our Father, to make his name holy, to make his kingdom come, to make his will be done, to give us our daily bread, to forgive us our sins, to let us not fall into temptation, and to deliver us from evil! (CSB/NAB, Mt 6:9-13)
Again, blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of Heaven is theirs; blessed are the humble, the lowly, the childlike, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven! Again, depend on God, and God will bless you with the kingdom of Heaven! God will give you happiness!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.