Read Zephaniah 2:3,3:12-13, Ps. 146:6-10, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Matthew 5:1-12

“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the Lord’s wrath.” (Zephaniah 2:3)

Last Sunday, we celebrated the Word of God. There are so many benefits of having a daily personal study and meditation of God’s word so much so that Jesus Christ himself said that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4).

You cannot be a committed Christian, especially in today’s world without the daily habit of studying God’s word. Like one trying to find a needle amongst piles of junk in a dark room, you would have a very hard time living true to your Christian faith without a daily personal meditation on God’s word. Let us now consider the lessons contained in today’s selection of the ever-flowing treasures of God’s word:

1. Don’t Give Up: There is a Reward for Goodness

In John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ declared: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world-- therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19). To be a Christian is living in the world, yet, not being of the world; operating by principles that are higher, and, to some extent, opposed to the values of the world – choosing to be a light in the midst of total darkness.

This may sound crazy but we must get used to the fact that as Jesus puts it, the world literally hates us just for being good. The devil is not happy when we let our light shine, hence, he does everything to make us blend in with the world. Are you being unfairly treated? Have you been deprived of your rights for the sake of your Christian faith? Jesus says you shall be comforted, that is, your patience would earn you a greater reward. Is the whole world against you? Jesus says, just rejoice and be glad.

Consider yourself blest when you suffer injustice for God’s sake, when people insult you and maltreat you for choosing to stand by what is right, God is on your side. Do you remember Joseph? When he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife and refused to give in to her sexual advances, it seemed as though his world had ended. Joseph had no one to defend him. In fact, no one was willing to listen to his side of the story. Joseph was severely beaten, stripped of his duty post, and thrown into prison.

Dear friends, if we really want to live as God’s children, we must get ready to suffer a lot of things. There is always a bitter price to pay for goodness. However, in the midst of all that may come your way, bear in mind that God never sleeps. The same Joseph that was so unfairly treated would eventually become Prime Minister of Egypt. It may even be that your own reward will not come in this life, don’t give up, just keep being good. Your efforts will never be in vain

.2. God Always Favours the Humble

In today’s first reading, we hear Zephaniah saying: “seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the Lord’s wrath”. Coming to our Gospel passage today, Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3-5). What does this tell us? God is particularly attracted to those who humble themselves, those who are poor in spirit, those who are oppressed, and those who chose to be meek.

The world may look down on you but God will surely exult you. In her song of thanksgiving, Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord … for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. … He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the pride in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:46-52).

This is exactly the message St. Paul drives home in today’s second reading when he stated: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). What do you have that you were not given? Why do you act as if you are a god; as if to say, without you, the world would cease to exist?

Do not get carried away with the praises you are receiving from people around you today. Remember that the same people who sang “Hosannas”, spread their clothes on the ground, and cut palm branches for Jesus to walk on were the very same people who shouted: “Crucify Him” when He was brought before Pilate.

Someone once said: “Be humble, once the food finishes, the plate suddenly becomes ‘dirty plate’.” You brought nothing to this world and soon, you would have to leave with nothing and when that day comes, the world would only pretend to miss you. The speed at which you will be forgotten will shock you. You are not a god; you are just dust.

3. If You are Hungry for Righteousness, you will never be disappointed

One of the greatest lies of the devil is: “Relax, everybody is doing it.” Everybody is not doing it; you just haven’t searched enough. Jesus says to us today: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” The question is, how hungry am I for righteousness? In other words, how zealous am I to ensure the right thing is done?

I often laugh when I meet a Nigerian comparing our country to first-world countries and then complaining about the quality of our leaders, yet that same person cannot even obey a simple traffic sign. Are we expecting angels to drop from heaven to rule over us? I also laugh when I hear Christians who live as if there is no God talking about the planned Islamization of our country. When you are not even convinced about your own faith; when you cannot show good examples to your children, do you think your children’s children will be willing to defend the faith?

Dear friends, do not become overwhelmed by evil. Be good. Continue on the path of righteousness. It may seem as if you are the only one left standing right now but don’t worry, righteousness will win in the end. Soon, those laughing at you for your so-called “strange behavior” will soon begin to emulate you.

4. Forgiveness is Hard yet Highly Rewarding

While teaching us to pray, Jesus said: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15). In another passage, Jesus added: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25). In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”  (Matthew 5:7)

Forgiveness is not easy. This is because, when we are hurt, we tend to hold on tightly to it thereby building a wall of defense to avoid being hurt again but by so doing, we end up locking ourselves in a kind of mental prison. We carry the hurt in our heads all day depriving ourselves of the joy that each day brings and even at night we simply cannot rest because we thinking of what to do to revenge. Like a cassette, we replay the hurt over and over again and we narrate the story to virtually everyone we meet. We even feel angrier when those we tell do not seem concerned or show pity.

Dear friends, let us face the truth – forgiveness is therapeutic. To forgive is to swallow a bitter pill. It is very bitter in the mouth but it brings us healing. When I was much younger, each time I sustained a wound, my mother would boil water, then take a napkin dip it into the very hot water, and massage the wound. The whole neighborhood would hear my voice. I so dreaded this hot-water massage that one day I fell while running and sustained a wound but decided not to tell my mum. When I woke up the next day, my leg was swollen, I became scared that I was going to die, and I had to confess. Forgiveness is like pouring hot water on a wound. It is painful yet ultimately liberating.

5. Do You Want to See God? Be Pure in Heart

The book of Proverbs says: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) What becomes of your life is largely a product of the kind of thoughts that occupy your mind daily. There is nothing you can ever achieve physically without first achieving it in your mind. The mind is not a dustbin, it is the powerhouse of your life. If you don’t select your thoughts, you can never accomplish your vision for the future.

St. Paul would tell us: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8). If your thoughts are clean, you will begin to see more clean things in your life. If your thoughts are holy, you will be attracted to holy people and you will always find yourself in holy places.

If your thoughts are pure, you will see God face-to-face. This is the promise of Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel passage. This is exactly what became of the saints who had visions and apparitions of God in their lifetime. Do you remember how Samuel heard the voice of God calling while he was lying down close to the ark of God? How come God did not speak to Hophni and Phineas, the two sons of Eli who were much older? Do you want to see God? Start by preparing a heart worthy enough for Him. 

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, give me the grace to remain steadfast as I carry the daily crosses so that I may not miss the reward of my sacrifices. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Zephaniah 2:3,3:12-13, Ps. 146:6-10, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Matthew 5:1-12a).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu