for the fourth Sunday of the Year
Zeph 2:3, 3:12-13 - 1 Cor 1:26-31 - Mt 5:1-12a
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
Happy in the Lord!
Zeph 2:3, 3:12-13
Zeph 2:3, Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the wrath of the Lord. 3:12, For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, 13, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
Today, the liturgy proposes to us a passage from the prophecy of Zephaniah. He exercised his ministry around the year 625 before Jesus Christ, under King Josiah. Zephaniah received from the Lord the mission of reminding the People of God that they must practice justice, and above all humility, in order to escape the wrath of the just Judge who is to come on the last Day of humanity. So, today, Zephaniah tells us: "Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the wrath of the Lord." (Zeph 2:3)
When we are just, when we are just toward ourselves, we are ready and willing to acknowledge that we are sinners, and that, consequently, the sufferings, annoyances, and humiliations that we undergo every day are nothing in comparison to the weight of our sins. Let us listen to the following dialogue of the good thief, Saint Dismas, on the cross of his punishment, when he said to the other brigand: " «Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.» And he said, «Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.» " (Lk 23:40-42)
We know Jesus' answer, the one we would like hear ourselves, right now if it were the will of God: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Lk 23:43) Is this not the reward for accepting humiliation and suffering? Does not happiness in God and with God pass through humility, and justice? Here we find the title of this homily: "Happy in the Lord!" Happy on earth? Or rather happy in God's Heaven? Both, quite simply. For the Life of God in us, that Life which makes one truly happy, begins here below. "He who believes has eternal life." (Jn 6:47)
1 Cor 1:27-31
1 Cor 1:27, God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, 28, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30, He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; 31, therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord." (cf. Jer 9:22-23)
Saint Paul uses certain incisive and biting phrases that are wholly his own. Even though he is addressing the Christians of Corinth, it is also of himself that he speaks when he writes: "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are." (1 Cor 1:27-28) Our happiness is in Christ Jesus! For, if we humble ourselves, believing in Him and trusting Him, then He will be for us "our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30). Then He will be Life for us!
But, let us repeat it, we must first humble ourselves before the Lord and be counted as nothing before men. We must first receive from God a special grace that will allow us to think and to believe, at least a little, that we are unworthy to have the Lord visit within us: "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof..." (Mt 8:8) For the Lord has made his choice, it is he who decides whether or not to give his grace: "God chose what is foolish in the world... God chose what is weak in the world... God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are."
Mt 5:1, Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2, And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3, «Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11, Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12, Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
The gospel is full of contrasts, full of paradoxes. The account of the beatitudes gives us an eloquent proof of this. Here is another: "The last will be first, and the first last." (Mt 20:16) Now, Holy Scripture and the entire Church confirm that the first, par excellence, is Christ: He is "the first-born among many brethren" (Rom 8:29). Thus Jesus is also the last, He who will return at the end of time: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." (Rev 21:6) So what should we do to find the Lord and to be happy in Him, if not to seek out the last place? "When you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, «Friend, go up higher»; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk 14:10-11)
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who found her happiness by becoming the Handmaid of the Lord, take us under her constant protection!