by Fr Joachim Robert
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Happy those who humbly put God first in their lives
On this 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are called to reflect on this call of discipleship, of how we as Disciples of Jesus are called to respond and are called to seek the Lord with all our heart. Because a disciple is one that is humble before the Lord, and when one is humble before the Lord, they remain blessed in Him.
And that is why in the First Reading of today from the Prophet Zephaniah, first line says:-
Seek the Lord. Seek the Lord all you, the humble of the earth, who obey His command.
And the aspect of seeking the Lord, dear friends, is not an external expression of what we do but how we seek the Lord in realization of the relationship that we have with Him.
This whole aspect of the people at the time of the Prophet Zephaniah reminds us, he says:-
There will be a remnant in Israel who will seek refuge in the Lord.
Because when we humble ourselves, dear friends, with the obstacles and the challenges that comes before us, and if we acknowledge who we are before the Lord, God as a Creator and we as His creatures, then we are called to respond with humility, to acknowledge that relationship. Because in everything that we do, the faithfulness of God will constantly be there. It is not what we do that is important but what God can do in and through us to those obstacles and those challenges of life that we remain blessed in Him and we seek happiness in the Lord.
And the Second Reading of today from the letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians tells us that each one of us, dear friends, it says:
Take yourselves, brothers and sisters, at the time when you were called; how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people or come from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and shame what is strong and He chose what is weak by human reckoning.
All of us, dear friends, have been blessed, have been gifted in so many different ways. And if we rely on our own strength, if we rely on our own capabilities, and that is the reason why we respond, the call of the Lord invites us to take re-look at ourselves and see are we able to understand the relationship of who God is and who we are. Because if we are boasting about our own achievements, we are boasting about our own success, then that relationship has been broken.
But the Lord, through Saint Paul invites us:-
If anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord
Because when we boast about the Lord, in what He can do in and through our lives, then those obstacles and those challenges of life seems to be fading away and we can journey through those moments with gratitude and with thanksgiving, to remain blessed in Him.
And in the Gospel today, seeing the crowd, Jesus went up the hill. There He sat down and was joined by his disciples. There are so many people who came to seek him. Perhaps they were people with so many gifts, talents, so many people who were going through challenges and obstacles of life. Those who are well-to-do, those who are learned, those perhaps who are privileged. But they seek the Lord up the mountain and when they seek Him with sincerity and humility of heart, acknowledging that God or Jesus has something to offer them, Jesus gives them this teaching of the Beatitudes.
And what Jesus does, dear friends, is not to give us a checklist to say that if you suffer, if you are merciful, if you are peacemakers, if you are persecuted, are all the requirements for you to have a blessed life. And how we see this is important. Because if we see it in the way of the world, then all these requirements, the eight Beatitudes that Jesus gives us, is something that we cannot boast about at all. But in those eight Beatitudes that Jesus gives us, it invites us to take a look at the process of going through those challenges and other obstacles so that we can remain blessed in Him. Because when we are poor in spirit, when we depend on God as the remnant of Israel, then we are able to acknowledge that the Kingdom of God is ours.
In the world full of authority, He says:-
Happy the gentle for they shall have the earth as their heritage.
In the way that we plunder the world of our own needs is a reminder for each and every one of us to acknowledge that the process of acknowledging God at the center of everything that we do, in the gentleness of God who reaches out to us, that the Earth and Mother Earth is part of our being.
And happy are those who mourn. For those who mourn in many, many different ways because of their loved ones, because of their challenges, obstacles, Jesus says they will be comforted.
And happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right. In terms of justice, in terms of peace, in terms of equality, He says they shall be comforted. And happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right, they will be satisfied.
And happy are those who are merciful. When we are merciful towards one another, He says they shall have mercy shown them.
And happy are those who are pure in heart. With the purity of intentions of seeking the Lord with all your heart, in doing what you need to do because God has placed that mission, that awareness in your heart to do something good for the society, He said in those moments you should be able to see God.
And happy are the peacemakers. Those who seek peace, justice, equality, unity, they shall be called Sons and Daughters of God.
And happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right, He says theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Lastly, happy are those when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny on my account, He says rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.
And I am sure, dear friends, each and every one of us have our own crosses, our own challenges and our own obstacles to carry. But if we want to remain blessed in the Lord, with all the sense of worry, all the sense of anxiety, of how the world sees as something to be rejected upon, Jesus says find comfort in those moments because these are moments where God invades into our lives and allow us to see those obstacles and challenges in a different light. And in doing so when we humble ourselves before the Lord, acknowledging that He is a God who never abandons us, then we can remain blessed in Him.
I would just like to share with you a story of one year ago when I was supposed to be taking this course on spiritual direction. And when I was struggling to make the decision whether to take the course or not to take the course, in so many different ways, I was pulled all around, in all different angles to see whether will I have the bandwidth, will I have the ability to take the course or not with so many responsibilities that is there before me. And many of my friends, especially priests who I confided in to help me to make that decision, many of them say ‘You shouldn’t do this because it is challenging and with the busyness of the parish, with the busyness of the Ministry, it will be difficult to do what you want to do.’
But as I seek the Lord, as I seek the Lord with humility of heart, humbling myself before Him, asking Him to lead me to make the right decision of what, to be able to do the best for my own growth and for the sake of our community, somehow or rather He gave me a sense of peace in my heart to acknowledge that even though obstacles and challenges may come, if we are focused on what the Lord calls you to do, then you will remain blessed.
And the aspect of this Beatitudes, dear friends, with all the sense of negativity, all the sense of looking small at myself and letting others to look at what I am not able to do, when I took it up in prayer I was at peace with the decisions I made because somehow along the way, after this one year of doing the course on spiritual direction, it made me realise of how God has blessed me in so many different ways in order to engage in my Ministry and to see how God has blessed me with new knowledge, with new insights in the Ministry that I am doing.
And doing so, dear friends, this whole aspect of the Beatitudes comes to mind as well. Because if we seek the Lord with sincerity of heart and mind, dear friends, the Lord will journey together with us and allow us to remain blessed in Him. And perhaps not in the way of the world, of how others perceive you, of how others see you but how God sees each and every one of us. Because in each and every moment, dear friends, even in those obstacles and those challenges, even when the world seem to be persecuting you, the Lord is there to comfort you and to lead you and to allow you to carry on the mission with gratitude in your heart and with love for Jesus.
And let us pray for the grace, dear friends, that in everything that we do in our lives, that God may be glorified, God will shine in and through us and let us boast about what the Lord has done for us. Because in doing so, we glorify Him and not ourselves.
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