Saturday, January 28, 2017

Homily Fourth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Fourth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13;
·         Ps 146:6-10;
·          1 Cor 1:26-31
·         Matthew 5:1-12a

Beatitudes: Mirror of the Face of Christ!

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we are told that the “Beatitudes” of today’s Gospel “depicts the countenance of Jesus Christ and portrays his charity…." They express the vocation of the faithful, the glory, the passion and the resurrection of Christ, the characteristic of a Christian and the rewards that awaits those who persevere in faith to the end (CCC1717).
In the Beatitudes we learn how Christ sees those who are poor in Spirit. Are you poor in spirit? In the Beatitudes we learn about how Christ appreciates those who mourn because of their faith. In the Beatitudes we learn about how Christ admires those who are humble and meek. Are you meek and humble in your approach to daily life?  In the Beatitudes we learn about how Christ delights with those who cherish justice and pursues righteousness at all times. Are you an agent of justice or champion of righteous causes? In the Beatitudes we see the face of God, the face of Christ as a merciful Christ. Are you merciful to one another in all circumstances in imitation of God who is merciful and steadfast in love (Exod 34:6ff).

 In the Beatitudes we learn of how Christ smiles with those who constantly purifies their hearts and thoughts. Do you strive daily to keep your heart and thought pure? In the Beatitudes we learn about Christ 's love for peacemakers. Are you an agent of peace especially in our today’s families, and societies constantly at rifts with one another? In the Beatitudes we learn that Christ will never abandoned those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Are you willing to suffer persecution for the sake of your righteous acts to your neighbor or nation? In the Beatitudes we mirror Christ’s love for those who are insulted innocently or for the sake of Christ. Are you willing to be insulted because you are a follower of Christ and his values?
As simple as these Matthean Beatitudes may sound as important as they are for daily Christian living and the greater the joy and rewards that awaits those who practice them in the face of all forms of anxieties and life challenges?

Take example from what St. Paul says to the worried, anxious and mixed Corinthian community today (1 Cor 7:26-31). Beatitudes is the antidotes for various anxieties that virgins, married, celibates, the poor, the rich, or the unmarried people even outside  of the Pauline Corinthian community experience. Nothing should ever separate us from the love, the joy, and from the hope that Christ promises us in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12a), irrespective of our culture and context.
Similar echo of these Beatitudes is heard in the prophecy of Zephaniah, the first reading. A paradoxical hymn  of joy and promise of hope and restoration for those in Israel, who were once in despair, persecuted and denied of their basic freedom and rights. No matter how long our contemporary sufferings and persecution may be…. Let us trust and strive to live by today’s Beatitudes promised us by the Lord!

Reflection Question:
1.    Do you see the countenance of Christ in your daily sufferings?
2.    How can you help members of your faith community to live the Beatitudes or see the face of Christ in the Gospel's Beatitudes?
3.    Which is your most favorites of the Eight Beatitudes?


 Homily Fourth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13;
·         Ps 146:6-10;
·          1 Cor 1:26-31
·         Matthew 5:1-12a

Blessed are those who seek the Lord!
In today’s scripture the Prophet Zephaniah, Christ and Paul remind us of the importance of peace, justice, righteousness, endurance and kindness. They also remind us of the blessings that awaits the humble and the poor who courageously and steadfastly trust in the Lord and in his divine promises.

 The first reading of today from the prophet Zephaniah reminds us of prophets like Habakkuk and Jeremiah! Both were asking “why”, and “where” is God in the face of sufferings, and injustices committed against the poor and the weak. And why would bad things happen to good people. Zephaniah was a contemporary of Habakkuk and Jeremiah. Three of them were all pre-exilic prophets. They were dealing with the religious, socio-economic and political problems, and tension created by the Chaldeans, otherwise known as the Babylonian. The Chaldeans plundered the goods of the poor. They burnt the homes of the less privilege. They mocked and starved the meek and the voiceless. They lied against them, and denied them justice and basic needs including food, shelter, clothing income and fair trade and religious freedom.
Anyone can easily be confused, discouraged and disoriented in the face of such misfortunes. As a champion and conscience of his people, Zephaniah simply steps in as God’s messenger with hope for his people.  He challenges and speaks out against the proud and the arrogant Chaldeans and those in Judah who might have collaborated with them.

Zephaniah recommends for all parties humility. He recommends, patience, steadfastness and faith (emunah). He recommends justice (misphat). He recommends righteousness (tsaddeqah) all found in the LORD who is the source of joy and peace (shalom) and the sovereign of all creation. For these prophets the righteous like Abraham are expected to be humble. They are expected to be very devout to the Torah- the teachings of the Bible. They are peaceful and loving to their neighbors. They are expected to be seekers and promoters of the common good, of the less privilege but not always seeking themselves. The righteous are expected to completely put their trust in the LORD.
 In the New Testament Paul and even Christ constantly appeal and re-relate this message of Israel’s prophets to the ugly and suffering- events of their time. For instance, Paul in Roman 1:17 and in Galatians3:11 is heard reminding everyone that, “the righteous shall live by faith’ (cf. Hab 2:4).

When the Corinthian community had their problems of arrogance, cheating, corruption, rivalry and bragging to the detriment of the poor Paul in his usual way reminds them that God opts for the poor. He prefers the righteous, the lowly, the remnant and those who persevere in righteousness (1 Cor 1:26-31).
It is these same prophetic messages of justice, peace, humility and pursuit of righteousness that Christ boldly repeats to the gathered crowd in today’s beatitude in Matthew’s Gospel. To many who were in this crowd (the rich, the poor, the lowly, politicians, spies, oppressors and the oppressed, the persecuted, and the persecutors, men, women and children” Jesus taught them:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God….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” (Matt 5:1-12).

Each of us can identify ourselves in these beatitudes (the poor, meek, those mourning, the hungry, those who practice mercy, seekers of righteousness, the clean in heart, the peace makers, the being persecuted, those their endure insult for the sake of Christ).
Pope Francis in the Fourth chapter of his Evangelli Gaudium (the Gospel of Joy) revisits these prophetic ideas of inclusion of the poor and the humble in the social, economic, and political fabrics of our society. He re-emphasis trust in God, justice, pursuit for common, proper minimum wage and social dialogue as a means to true peace.

Wherever we are in our various continents and cultures or from our various positions of strengths and weaknesses let us pray that today’s messages of Zephaniah, Paul and Christ may find a joyful place of peace, justice and righteousness in our homes and societies.
Reflection Questions
1.    Do you assist in promoting the Beatitudes in your community?
2.    What are the challenges in living the Beatitudes in your faith community?
3.    Which is your most favorites of the Beatitudes?