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Homily for fourth Sunday, ordinary time A

27 Jan 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

In all our scripture passages today, the first reading, the second, and the gospel passage from Matthew’s account, we see a reflection of a particular theme. They talk about integrity, humility, the need to rely on God. The prophet Zephaniah tells us this morning to seek the Lord, which means to seek the face of the Lord, to seek his presence. Though he says he is always with us, even to the end of time, we, through our sins, can walk away from his company. Many times we have done that, we walked away from his presence, but the prophet Zephaniah reminds us this morning to seek his presence.

In God’s presence, we find shelter; we find protection from every flying arrow of the enemies. That is what the Lord means whenever he tells us to be like little children; they feel so secured in the presence of their father. The presence of their father is like a cover over them, a rock upon which they stand. They believe that they are untouchable as long as they remain in his presence. That is exactly what Zephaniah wants of us today; to seek the Lord, seek His face, and seek his company.

One cannot sincerely seek and dwell in the presence of God unless, in humility and integrity; that is why Zephaniah says, seek humility, seek integrity. It is in humility we are lifted; he humbles the proud and raises the lowly. St. Paul tells the early Church and each of us here present to look back into our lives and see how many of us were wise in the ordinary sense of the word when we were called? How many of us here were born with a golden spoon in our mouths? How many of us here started our businesses in a big way? Many of us started from scratch, but here we are today. That is why I appreciate God every day because, if he were to be looking for a holy man to be made priest, I would not be a priest today. God chose what is weak by human reckoning to shame the strong and understand that there is no need to be boastful. If anyone wants to boast, let him boast of the Lord. St. Paul asked; What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7). In other words, everything you have is a gift from God, even your very life.

It is unfortunate today in our world that some people want to take the place of God; they have exalted themselves so much so that God has no place in their lives. They think they can do it all without God, but they forget that Jesus says, apart from me, you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). No matter how high one exults himself, the proud will be pulled down. We must therefore let beatitude be our way of life.

Jesus went up the mountain, sat down, and taught the people; he taught them what we call today the beatitudes. The seriousness of the beatitudes is seen in the fact that Jesus sat down to teach them. Ordinarily, Rabies walks around while instructing their followers, but they sat down to give official teachings. In our gospel passage this morning, Jesus went up the mountain and sat down; he taught the people and all of us the “road map for Christian living,” as Pope Francis describes the beatitudes. The beatitudes guide our Christian lives.

I may not have the time to begin to take each of the beatitudes to explain, but I can say that they all revolve around the call to be humble. Happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is not about economic poverty but humility. To be poor in spirit is to be humble and accept that there is nothing we have that we were not given.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus watered down the values of this world to expose what truly matters. He calls us to be gentle in a world where humility is no longer seen as a virtue but a weakness. He encourages us to trust him and be hopeful even in sorrowful moments because there will be joy at dawn. Never stop thirsting for what is right even though we live in a world where lies and betrayals have become the order of the day. To be merciful and never see it as a weakness as the world would want to present it; he calls us to be peacemakers in a troubled world like ours where violence is gradually becoming a virtue.

We are all called to a life of humility; this may be challenging, especially in our society where Christians are terrorized and killed daily for their faith. But we must know that humility is not foolishness, and it is not weakness. Humility is not a call to become vulnerable, neither did we receive the spirit of timidity. In humility, we can stand for the truth, for integrity, for freedom of worship, for justice and peace in our world.