Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 29, 2017
In our First Reading, the Prophet Zephaniah depicts “the law” as a kind of shelter for the righteous. This makes sense. If you remain within “the law,” you are safe and protected…or at least you should be. When you step outside of “the law,” you put yourself at risk. The problem today is that “the law” seems to be in a state of flux. The trend these days seems to be towards rolling back, repealing, and abolishing various policies and laws. Some feel that certain laws, as they exist, are not effective. In other words, the vision the drafters had in mind has not become reality. And that may well be the case. But still, changes in our laws and policies can be confusing. It makes it difficult to find dependable shelter when laws keep changing.
Presently, in the USA, there are a number of laws and policies being debated, reconsidered, and re-evaluated. Some will fall, some will stand, and some will be modified. Even within our Church, there is palatable tension, if not about “the law” as written, then about how it should be interpreted or administered, especially in “the penalty phase.” Pope Francis’s teaching letter
When people charged Him with trying to abolish “The Law,” Jesus was very clear that He had not come to abolish or repeal EVEN SO MUCH AS ONE LETTER of the law. Nevertheless, through “The Beatitudes,” the Lord seems to be “rolling back” the enormous and burdensome policies, that, over the generations, grew up around “The Law.” Even good laws do that. Over the years, they accumulate policies and interpretations that weigh them down and cloud the vision that inspired them in the first place. So, with the Beatitudes, Jesus seems to be rolling back those things that cloud “The Law” and make it more difficult to provide dependable shelter to the righteous.
Many, whose vision of life does not include God, have been critical of “The Beatitudes,” charging that this teaching is a way to pacify the poor, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. They see Matt. 5:13-19 as a way of anesthetizing common folks, like St. Paul is writing to in our Second Reading….those not wise by human standards…not powerful….not of noble birth…the weak. The Godless dust away this extremely important teaching like sappy words in a greeting card. Or worse, the un-Godly use Jesus’s Words to encourage people to accept suffering…quietly.
So, it is very important to remember that “The Beatitudes” have a two-fold purpose. First, they offer us a vision of how things will be when Christ returns in all of His Glory. But, additionally, they inspire us in how we should live, here and now, while we wait for the Reign of God to come upon us in its fullness. What the Lord has given us here is a guide to form policies for the interpretation and administration of “The Law”…GOD’S LAW…THE LAW OF LOVE!
“The Beatitudes” are an instruction to lawmakers…both civil and church leaders alike…in how to offer dependable shelter for the righteous who strive to live within “The Law of Love.” Civil and Church laws alike should provide both comfort and blessing to the righteous…especially to those in greatest need.
Moreover, we, who have been baptized in Christ Jesus, have a duty to insist that “The Beatitudes” be more than a vision. Our Second Reading begins with these words: Consider your calling, brothers and sisters!
Our calling is to insist that the beatitudes are not merely a vision, but a reality, here and now! Our calling as citizens, and as members of the Body of Christ, is to push back against any law or policy or penalty that is contrary to GOD’S LAW…THE LAW OF LOVE!
And should you ask: But what can I possibly do? Take special note of St. Paul’s words: 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.