3 February 2007 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zephaniah 2,3; 3,12-13; 1 Cor 1, 26-31; Matthew 5, 1-12a
When Jesus preached, he had four dominant groups in the Jewish religion: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and the Zealots. These groups demanded strict observance of the Mosaic Law as well as Jewish customs and rituals. The Mosaic Law like the Ten Commandments focused on a series of “Thou shall not…” --- which one should avoid in daily life. It is a lifestyle of avoidance. This stance is seen in the first reading: the prime motivation is to avoid punishment; "to be sheltered from God's wrath". Like a child who shows goodness out of fear of their parents;
The Beatitudes of Jesus presents a different perspective; it concentrates on the development of virtues and the transformation of the person. It tells us of our proper motivation for the Christian life which would lead to the promise of salvation in the next life --- what we call an eschatological meaning. Thus, the perspective of Jesus is more positive: it places less emphasis on which rules people should follow, instead, focuses on helping people develop good character traits such as kindness, humility, meekness and love. For example, when we hope and trust in God, we can be free from vindictive anger and we will be people who are gentle. Trusting in God’s care for us makes it easier to deal justly with others, thus we do not have to cheat, lie and to steal which are not rightfully ours.
These character traits will allow a person to make correct decisions later in life. Conversely, the opposite of these virtues as bad habits and vices stand on the way of becoming a good person.
One good thing about the Beatitudes is that they place a very important role on our motivation. To act from virtue is to act from some particular motivation. We always say that we should desire certain outcomes and that we should want to accomplish certain goals by our actions. To be pure of heart, for example, means to be free from our selfish intentions and desires. How many times have we performed or acted out on something for personal gain? Anong makukuha ko diyan?
Second, the Beatitudes challenges us to think about what sort of person we want to be. In the second reading, St. Paul said, “Consider your own calling!” When we are clear with who we want, correct decisions will come naturally. We will cultivate values which would help us become the person we desire to be.
In other words, we are challenged to choose. If you set your heart and use all your energies to get what the world values, you will get them but it is all you will have. But, if you set your heart in being faithful and trusting to God, you will find yourself in trouble, you may look like a failure in the world’s standard, but your payment will come in full in life eternal. Will you take the easy way which would give you pleasure and profit, or are you willing to look ahead and sacrifice them for the greater good?