29 Jan 2023 – 4th Sunday, (A)

29 Jan 2023 – 4th Sunday, (A)

Theme: The beatitudes are the basic Christian ideals, not a moral code or a set of rules to avoid God’s punishment. They aim to raise our perspective above the constraints of self-interest and gain.

(1) Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13

For I will leave among you a people humble and lowly

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 Lord’s wrath.

For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord – the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.

Responsorial: Psalm 145:7-10

R./: Happy the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free. (R./)

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan. (R./)

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age. (R./)

(2) 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong

For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but 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, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

The spirit of the Kingdom: the Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.



If hearing the Beatitudes from St Matthew’s Gospel cause us to feel a little uneasy, they are probably meant to do so. They are like a spiritual tonic, to help us probe and clear our conscience. If taken quite literally they seem to be too idealistic, too unworldly for us. But Jesus meant them as words of life, to bring out the best in us. They make no strictly enforceable demands, they are not a set of laws, they are not meant to lay a burden of guilt on our shoulders. What they do is describe in eight striking sentences of the marvellous freedom we can enjoy, if we are not too tied to ownership. Jesus speaks from experience, because he himself lived the Beatitudes fully.

Although laid down as commandments, they are revolutionary ideals, going well beyond the beatitudes found in the Old Testament Wisdom books. The Wisdom writers describe as happy the man who has a good wife, docile and obedient children, faithful friends, and prosperity in all his undertakings. But according to Jesus, the happy and blessed are not those who are currently enjoying wealth and success, but rather the poor, the hungry, the mourners, the despised and persecuted. Naturally we wonder just what he meant by the “poor in spirit.” Was it people in material poverty, or rich people who were not overly attached to their money, or spiritual-minded people who for whom God meant everything? In practice the majority of the population of the Graeco-Roman world in those times were in material poverty.

Certainly the “poor in spirit” must include people in humble circumstances who made do without complaint. Their lives were in sharp contrast to the arrogant spirit of the upper-class minority who owned most of the wealth and controlled the lives of others. Long before Christ the Psalmist wrote, “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him, and saved him from all his distress” (Ps 34:6) . The poor could not rely on wealth for their security, so they relied on God, who alone was their hope and strength. Jesus did not praise material poverty but taught that a humble disposition draws us near to God.

Paradoxically, He did not agitate for social reform, or call for a coup d’état. Later he says, “Lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven” (Mt 6:19+) . He utterly refused to be a part of any violent rebellion but was called the friend of publicans or tax collectors. Despite his miraculous feeding of the multitudes, His concern seems never to have focussed on agitation for economic reform.

It was on people themselves, the human person in relation to God, that he focused his mission. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these other things will be given you as well” (Mt 6:33) . Certainly his sympathy went out to the humble, the toilers and heavily laden. He blessed those who have only God to turn to, the powerless, those who mourn, those who are persecuted. All these will be comforted. They will have mercy shown them. Theirs will be the kingdom of heaven. To them the love of God will reveal the meaning of life. They will be called children of God and shall see God face to face.

Happy Attitudes

If you visit Galilee in the Springtime, you’ll see how beautiful it is; including the places where Jesus taught the crowds. One sunny morning on the hill of the beatitudes overlooking the lake, with the hill ablaze with flowers, it dawned on me what an eye Jesus had for the beauty of nature. The depth of his words on than occasion was matched by the beauty of his surroundings. What he said there was radical and paradoxical. How his listeners reacted to his words then is hard to say. What is our reaction to them today? Imagine a father or mother giving the beatitudes as advice to their teenage son or daughter as they set out to make their way in the world. Would we advise them to be detached from property, to be gentle, not competitive, to risk all on behalf of human rights and saving the environment?

How often we imply if we do not say to our children: “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.” Whatever gentleness may achieve, it won’t help you climb the ladder of success. To succeed in business you must be pushy and aggressive and possibly ruthless as well. The attitudes Jesus calls blessed are the opposite to fierce competition. As St Paul says: “It was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones God has chosen.”

Those who lament the fewness of “practising Catholics” may have reduced this notion to attendance at Sunday Mass. There is no mention of that in the beatitudes. Jesus simply listed some qualities needed to enter the kingdom of heaven. These “happy attitudes” are the charter of the kingdom. They are ideals that are well-nigh unattainable. They are values to aim at, meant to help us moderate our lifestyles. History produces some people who incarnate these beatitudes, like a Francis of Assisi or a Mother Teresa, or some specially dedicated individuals that we may be privileged to know. As St Paul says, God has made us members of Christ, “who is our wisdom, our virtue, our holiness and our freedom.”

A condensed Gospel

The beatitudes offer a summary of Jesus’ teaching. They are the condensed gospel and need some teasing out to apply them to life. We are aware of political manifestos, statements of what a party stands for, what they intend to achieve if you elect them. This gospel is Jesus’ manifesto. It is a manifesto that he promises will bring us near to God.

People who are detached and show gentleness to others, are blessed. Even if they are rich, their money does not make them boastful or proud. Grief is the price we must eventually pay for having loved. If you are determined never to cry at a funeral, don’t ever love anyone. The meek and the gentle are the most resilient of people. Good people deeply respect justice and fair play, and try to win them for others. As you treat others, so you will be treated. If we want to receive mercy and compassion, we must show mercy to others. A pure heart is not devious, deceitful, selfish or cunning. Jesus did not say we should be passive. Rather he urges us to build bridges of peace with others.

Jesus warns those who follow him will be treated as he was. There is a cost in Pentecost, and following him means sharing his cross. Right from the beginning when Simeon saw him in the temple, he said that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction. Everything he said and did was a challenge to this world’s values. Those with power, prestige, and control felt undermined by his message. The religious leaders who were the arbiters of right and wrong, were so threatened by him that they planned his death.

There is a cleansing power in the beatitudes. They are about letting go of things that are not life-giving, and about becoming truly free. They offer guidelines for living, for inner peace and happiness. Formal religion can be too tied to rules and regulations and be authoritarian. Spirituality is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is about letting go, so as to be free in God’s sight.

One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    Suffering is an asset. We will enjoy and realize its benefits once it is gone!!


    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
    People who do not think themselves higher than others are those who are poor in spirit. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Pride was the single sin which made the once upon Angels to fall from Heaven and become devils. Mamma is the best example of “poor in spirit”. Though She was aware that God was in Her womb and She was the one and only Mother of God, She did not consider Herself higher than others. She did not even request a better birth place for Her sweet little baby. She was happy and thankful for whatever She had been blessed with.

    “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”
    When someone goes through the valley of tears, the world further harasses him saying that they have committed a big sin because a big misfortune has happened to them. They also think that they are cursed and judge that they have committed big sins. But our dear Jesus calls them “Blessed”. Next time if someone says that you are suffering because of your sins, please open the Bible and show them Mathew 5:1-12 and tell what Jesus told about you.

    When you are going through difficult times, realise that God is in full control and He works out everything for our good. Keep saying the same, “My Jesus is in full control, He will make everything end well”.

    He will not allow us to suffer more than what we can bear. He will give us the grace to suffer through. When we come out of difficult situations, we come out as a deeper person in experience with our Saviour Jesus Christ. It will bring anyone closer to God. Even those who do not search for Jesus will search for Him. It can bring a person to His knees.

    The comfort of our loving Lord is so sweet, that we feel it is worth going through the suffering. We gain good experience with our Lord Jesus if we think in the right direction during our sufferings. Suffering tells us who we are. Suffering will show how much faith we actually have. It is through suffering that one realizes oneself.

    “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy”
    When we receive mercy from God we will be able to give mercy to others. When we do not receive God’s mercy, we will carry a heavy guilt feeling. Though God is longing to forgive our sins, we will be carrying a heavy load of guilt on our back. When we are pushed down with the heavy guilt feeling we will not be able to show mercy to others. Our Lord Jesus explained the mercy of our God the Father using the story of the Prodigal Son. Let us consider the story of the prodigal son. The father forgives the prodigal son and the prodigal son accepts the forgiveness of the father and again enjoys his position as the son/heir of the father. Now one of his friends who had wounded him earlier comes and asks for forgiveness, he will immediately and gladly forgive his friend. On the contrary, if the son has not received the forgiveness of his father and does not enter his father’s house, continues to live with his guilt.. In this situation if the same friend asks for forgiveness, he will not forgive but will try to make him feel guilty just like him.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”
    Can you remember someone, who, when they walk in, the whole room is filled with merry and joy? All the cold war happening in that room vanishes for that moment when that person is present, and all the cold war comes in again when that person leaves the room. They may be undergoing lots of problems, but they will still try to make everyone peaceful and cool. They will have a simple mindset, not a manipulating mindset. When King David manipulated to hide his sin of taking someone else’s wife, peace left David’s kingdom. Manipulative thinking spreads faster than Covid. Wherever it is, peace will not be able to flourish.

    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”
    In an IT project the milestones were not met and the blame game started. All the stakeholders got into the blame game except one of the stakeholders who was a Christian. He just said, “I do not want to blame anyone, but we are not finding the solution to the problem, we are concentrating only to save our jobs”. No one was doing the right thing, except the one who had the courage to follow Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus was fighting the battle for him and he won.

    “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”
    Saint Mary Magdalene whose sins were forgiven by our Lord, was the first person to see Him after He was risen. When she longed for her master with a pure heart, He appeared to her. He appeared to her joyously. Once He forgave her sins, He forgot them too and never remembered again. Let us not feel that our sins are too big for us to see God. Our sins are big, but God’s forgiveness is bigger. All we can do is to think good thoughts, speak good words and be motivated to live a pure life. Our final goal is to see God only. For that we do not need multiple degrees or multiple houses or cars. All we need is only a pure heart!!

    “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
    We feel and also witness that the meek are being subdued. But if we observe their life as a whole, they will be recompensed and will enjoy a peaceful life in their old age. There was a proud brother and a humble sister in the family. Both of them are now in their old age, in their eighties. Both were well placed in big organisations. The elder brother was corrupt, rich during his work life. He was also proud because he had more riches. The younger sister though in a similar designation, loved our Lord Jesus, was not corrupt. She lived a life with regular comforts. Both of them retired one after the other. The younger sister’s kids were all placed and their families flourished. But the elder brother had lot of financial problems during his old age, lots of health ailments and his kids were also struggling. There was no peace left with him. He comes to Sunday Mass regularly and keeps asking, “Why is there no peace for me in this old age? Why is this suffering for me..?”

    When we are meek, We can retire from self care. God will take care of us.

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