Reflections

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, JANUARY 29, 2023

THE BEATITUDES—CHRISTIAN VIRTUES
Greeting (Cf. Second Reading)
God has chosen what is weak
and has made Jesus Christ
our wisdom and our virtue,
our holiness and our freedom.
May the Lord Jesus be always with you.
R/ And with your spirit.

Introduction
To be poor and humble and gentle, merciful and weeping and persecuted – as things that would make us happy sounds quite strange to us. Is it not rather to have things aplenty and power and a lot of fun? To understand these statements we have to look at Jesus himself. For example, he led the life of the poor but he was happy. He suffered, but he made us happy and was at peace with God and himself. Let us ask our Lord that we may understand his teaching better and become more like him.
Thus, today’s message of the beatitudes is perhaps the most upsetting and challenging page of the Good News of Jesus Christ; it is right at the heart of the Gospel. The rich, the proud and the mighty are self-satisfied: they have what they want. They are dangerously shut in within themselves and with what they have. The poor and the suffering are not praised because they have nothing or are persecuted, but because the poor and the humble, the gentle and those who weep are aware that they have nothing but themselves to give, and so they are people who hope, expecting everything from God and from people. Let us be among these happy ones.

Penitential Act
Let us ask pardon from the Lord
that we are still so much unlike him.
(pause)

Lord Jesus, you were poor but happy.
Make us more like you.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Jesus Christ, you were gentle and humble.
Make us more like you:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you were persecuted and yet serene.
Make us more like you.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Be gentle and compassionate
to us, your sinful people.
Make us happy by your forgiveness
and lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

Opening Prayer
Let us pray
that we may discover and experience
God’s enduring happiness
(pause)

God our Father,
in your son Jesus you have made it visible
that you are poor, gentle and humble,
merciful and just, a lover of peace.
Make us poor and free,
let us weep with those who mourn,
hunger and thirst with those
who seek what is right and just;
make us straightforward and sincere of heart,
and build roads of peace to one another,
that your happiness may be ours.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

First Reading (Zeph 2:3; 3:12-13): God Lives Among the Poor and  the Humble
The prophet Zephaniah promises to God’s people that they will be saved on the Day of Judgment if they are poor and humble before God, if they have full trust in him.

1 Reading ZEPHANIAH 2:3; 3:12-13
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.

Responsorial PSALM 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
R. (Mt 5:3) Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs! or: Alleluia.

The LORD keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free. R.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers. R.

The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia. R.

Second Reading (1 Cor 1:26-31): God Chooses the Lowly
Almost all the Christians of Corinth come from the poor classes. St. Paul tells them that, precisely because of their humility, they are open to God and that Christ is their strength.

2 Reading CORINTHIANS 1:26-31
Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, 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. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”

Alleluia MATTHEW 5:12a
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad;
your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel (Mt 5:1-12): Who Are the Happy People?
If we are aware how poor and empty we are, God will fill us and make us happy.

Gospel MATTHEW 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Commentary
Do you want to be happy for a few hours? Get drunk. Do you want to be satisfied for some years? Grab the pleasures that life gives you. But how to be happy always? The Bible guarantees a paradox: true and lasting joy is born of commitment, renunciation, self-denial, sacrifice, and accompanied by pain. “Now I am glad to suffer for you,” says Paul to the Colossians 1:24.
There was a time when God seemed to have allied himself with the rich: welfare, fortune, an abundance of goods, numerous offspring were seen as signs of God’s blessing (Deut 28:1-14).
Zephaniah lived a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem, in a period of social and political chaos. Although belonged to ruling class, the prophet went against the dignitaries of the court, against the merchants, against the ungodly (cf. Zep 1:8-12), and against all those who perpetrate injustice. He threatens the imminent punishment of God and, as the last possibility of salvation, invites them to ‘conversion to the Lord.’
To convert means becoming like the humble, like the poor. For Zephaniah, the poor are those who having no security, trust entirely in God and submit to his will.
Most of the book of the prophet Zephaniah is about a terrible day of vengeance which the Lord will wreak upon idolaters and the unfaithful. But today’s passage describes a “remnant,” a humble and just minority who will receive not vengeance but security.
This remnant, a “moral minority” is addressed by both Jesus and Zephaniah. They speak as if they know their message will be lost on the powerful, the self-important people intent on dominating others. They want their listeners not to choose the path of arrogance, not even to pine for power, but “seek justice … seek humility, … do no wrong, … speak no lies” (Zephaniah), and to “thirst for righteousness, … be merciful, and be peacemakers” (Jesus).
We are praying with the dignity of being a “remnant” people. Jesus, in today’s Gospel is speaking to His disciples whom He wishes to form into a remnant. Matthew pictures Jesus up on a mountain-side presenting a variation of the Ten Commandments.
Just as the Ten Commandments are the core of the Jewish way of life and a law to follow, so Beatitudes are the core of the Christian way of life. Jesus is the new Moses, presenting the new commandments and tells his followers, “Congratulations! You won the favour of the Lord…because you are poor and docile, you are a peace maker, accepted persecutions and pains for the Kingdom …

Intercessions (Kyrie, adapted)
Let us pray to our Father in heaven that we may be counted among the poor and humble who expect everything from him and among whom his Son is alive. Let us say:
R/ Lord, fill our empty hearts.

– For those who are groping to find God, that they may discover him; for those who think that they already posses God, that they may seek him, let us pray:
R/ Lord, fill our empty hearts.
– For those who are afraid of the future, that they find trust and confidence: for those who have failed in the past, that they may be given new opportunities, let us pray:
R/ Lord, fill our empty hearts.
– For all who doubt, that they may not despair; for all who have lost their way in life, that they may find a home; for the lonely, that they may encounter a caring person, let us pray:
R/ Lord, fill our empty hearts.
– For those who have no time, that they may take time out to pause and to be available to people; for those who have plenty of time, that they may use it for service, let us pray:
R/ Lord fill our empty hearts.
– For all who hunger in whatever way, that they may be satisfied; for those who are satisfied, that they may learn what hunger is, let us pray:
R/ Lord, fill our empty hearts.
– For those who are well-off, that they may not become proud; for the high and the mighty, that they may realize how vulnerable they are, let us pray:
R/ Lord, fill our empty hearts.

Lord our God, from whom all good things come, we pray you today for all those living between hope and fear and for ourselves. Set us free from anxiety and from false security and give us all that is good, through Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts
God our Father,
these are the gifts of the poor:
a bit of food, a little wine.
All the rest we may have
we did not bring with us
for they may stand between you and us,
between us and people.
Accept us in our riches and our poverty,
in our weakness and our strength,
with our sorrows and our joys.
Let us experience life as a gift from you
and teach us to give ourselves as we are,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer
The Eucharistic prayer, particularly in the preface and before the consecration, is a song of thanksgiving to God, not for what we have done for him but for the happiness he has brought to his people. Let us thank him with all our hearts.

Invitation to the Lord’s Prayer
Aware that we are dependent on God,
we pray the trusting prayer
of his own Son, Jesus. R/ Our Father…

Deliver Us
Deliver us Lord, from every evil
and remove from our hearts
the shell of selfishness
that closes us to you and to people.
Empty our hearts and hands
from all possessive riches,
that you yourself may be to us
the food that satisfies us
and the water that quenches our thirst.
May we thus prepare in joy and hope
the full coming among us
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom…

Invitation to Communion
This is Jesus our Lord.
He was born in poverty,
and when he preached the Good News
he had no stone for a pillow
on which to rest his head.
And so he could give himself to all
and become our food and drink.
Happy are we to receive him now,
and to let him fill us with his riches. R/ Lord, I am not worthy…

Thanksgiving after Communion (Bruggeman- Zuidberg)
The following text is a model for a prayer of thanksgiving after communion, which could take the place of the song or the silent thanksgiving after communion. If it is in the people’s leaflet, all could pray it together or it may be slowly read by the prayer leader, perhaps with a very brief pause after each part. If it is read by the priest, he concludes with the Prayer after Communion.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for people who have made themselves poor
to enrich others,
whose house is always a place of welcome
even to strangers.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for people who can listen to the miseries of others,
who heal wounds by making pain bearable,
for people who can console.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for people who spread peace and rest,
who are attentive to little things,
who are happy when others are great.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for people who hunger for justice
who crave to see every person free,
who suffer when injustice is done to their neighbor.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for people whose judgment is gentle,
who respect the mystery of all life,
who open their hearts to forgiveness and reconciliation.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for people whose intentions are straightforward,
whose words are sincere,
for people loyal to their friends.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for people who believe in roads to peace,
who turn their swords into instruments of friendship,
who work to make their faith credible
by committing themselves to one another.
We thank you, Lord our God,
for all the happy people
whose joy and sense of humor
bring smiles to those around them,
and whose liberating lifestyle
is a refreshing ray of hope to all. R/ Amen.

Prayer after Communion
Our God and Father,
you recognize yourself in the poor
and the humble of this earth
and to them you give Jesus your Son
as their companion in life.
May you recognize yourself in us, then,
and show us the way of Jesus
to the weak and to the victims
of our pride and our hunger for power.
Make us your happy people,
whose love and sense of humor
can bring laughter to sad eyes
and the warmth of hope and joy
to hearts hardened by pain.
Let your Son be with us now and for ever. R/ Amen.

Blessing
Blessed are we
if we live Christ’s message of joy
as people aware of the poverty of our hearts
and the insufficiency of our own resources.
Blessed are we
if we can place ourselves in the hands of God.
Blessed are we when God blesses us:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.

Let us go in the peace and the joy of the Lord.
R/ Thanks be to God.

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