Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Pete Iorio
January 28, 2023 - 5:00 PM
January 29, 2023 - 8:30 AM
A friend of mine was lamenting that her teenage son greatly disappointed her husband and her. He had just gone on retreat, and the next day he ends up disobeying, lying and trying to cover up. She and her husband were devastated because he is a very good kid. As a result they placed strict consequences for his behavior, so that he could learn a lesson and begin to restore trust.
Living strictly by the 10 Commandments, it’s easy to identify that two of them were violated by my friend’s son: Honor your mother and father and you shall not bear false witness. The 10 Commandments are important for creating social order. They give us a necessary impulse control, and a framework for living good moral lives.
In this vast assembly of people gathered in prayer, it goes without saying that we are all at different places of our spiritual journeys. Jesus is always inviting us to grow, and to transform our lives to live at a deeper spiritual level. For example, he invited the rich young man, who kept all the commandments, to give up everything and follow him. The man could not do that. He went away sad. A deeper level of spirituality is offered today by Jesus when he teaches the eight beatitudes. Obeying the commandments only can appeal to our egotistic consciousness, and our need to be “right” or better than others. With the beatitudes, there is no ego or social payoff.
In Jesus’ time many understood (and some believe today) that wealth and success in life are signs of God's approval. Poverty was understood as a consequence of sin. Jesus turns everything upside down. He says that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor, to the afflicted, to those who act with mercy and courage for the good of others. Instead of seeing the sufferings of life as punishment, Jesus says that the poor are blessed. They are happy because they are the chosen ones of God.
At a basic level, the beatitudes don’t make sense. I’m going to share with you this little reflection, which is a kind of examination of conscience connected to the beatitudes.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God: The path to holiness requires focusing less on wealth and material things, and giving more time and attention to the most important things in life — God, our families and the needs of others, especially the poor.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth: Are we humble? Are we patient with the faults and limitations of others?
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted: Do we show compassion (from the Latin word meaning to “suffer with”) to people we encounter who are experiencing illness or sorrow? Do we pray for them and offer our assistance?
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled: Do we desire and work for justice on behalf of society’s most vulnerable people — the unborn, the immigrant, the marginalized and the abandoned? Are we good stewards of the Earth?
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy: Do we truly do to others as we would have them do to us — forgiving them for wrongs they have committed against us, and seeking forgiveness from those we have hurt?
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God: Holiness requires cultivating a heart in love with God and our neighbor. Do we reject cynicism and negativity and allow truth and charity to guide our thoughts and actions?
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God: Do we sow peace in our relationships, steer clear of gossip, and treat everyone with respect?
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven: Sometimes being a Christian requires us to be counter-cultural, to make the right choice, not necessarily the popular choice. Are we willing to endure opposition and even ridicule because of our faith?
Each time we respond yes to these beatitudes, let us rejoice and be glad because we are growing into the Blessed Christian person that Jesus wants us to be.