Year A: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zephaniah invites us to choose God through seeking integrity and humility. The Divine call is inclusive of all and, therefore, universal. 

January Year A - Holding The Sun in Her Fingers

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12

Zephaniah has as broad a brush stroke as Isaiah’s. Those who are partners in the great conversation with God are not divided by anything other than their willingness to choose to be in partnership. They are therefore the ‘humble of the earth’. They are people anywhere on earth who seek integrity and humility.  He then paints a picture of the pastoral peace which will attend all those on earth who seek the dialogue with God and who do no wrong, tell no lies and commit no perjury.  God wants a conversation with every person. The only ones who are excluded – exclude themselves. Our humanity demands that we can choose or not.  The Divine call is inclusive of all and, therefore, universal. 

Paul sees this all clearly – he addresses, beyond his immediate audience, the whole human race.  He sees that the ones able to take part in the dialogue with God, to listen to the message, are not the wise, the powerful (or the members of any church or community) but those anywhere who have the capacity to listen.  ‘The human race has nothing to boast about to God’.  This is the only qualification for being ‘members of Christ’.  Clearly Paul takes his perspective from his belief that in Christ is found the summation and personification of the ‘Word’ of God, the conversation which God wants with everyone: ‘by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue and our holiness and our freedom.’  Christ has become the ground of our conversation with God and the only reason for boasting. 

Matthew recalls the universal and inclusive nature of those marked by participation in the divine-human dialogue. Who is happy, blessed, fully human? What marks out the kingdom people?  The vision cannot be restricted to any religion, church, gathering, nation, clan, tribe, society. Matthew quite simply records how Jesus lists the qualities (the poor in spirit, the gentle, the mourners, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted, those who are persecuted because they try and follow the demands proclaimed by Christ. The lines which divide such people from others cut across every man-made boundary of religion or nation. They exist within and outside the Churches, the religions, the nations. At best, the Church exists to say what Christ said and to proclaim the same inclusive and universal invitation to be with God.  This is its duty and joy.  It is the cement which binds people to Christ and powers their repetition of his mission. Followers of Christ, above all others, should show mercy, empathy and love to everyone they meet.