Friday, February 01, 2008

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A

May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts..

Today’s readings are important because they all speak about discipleship
How do we bring people to Christ ?
How do we help someone grow in their faith ?

In the first reading the Prophet Zephaniah speaks of humility
To be a disciple of God we have to be humble

The word disciple means one who follows
If we are following someone it means that someone is leading
Someone is up in front and someone is behind.

In our role as disciples we have to follow Christ and his Church.
We all can’t do our own thing or march to the beat of our own drummer

So the first characteristic of discipleship is simply knowing
who leads and who follows

Christ leads
The shepherds of our Church lead
And we their collaborators follow.

Humility for a disciple however goes beyond realizing who is leading and who is following.
We are also called to be humble with those who we shepherd.

Bringing a person to faith means finding away into their heart.
A disciple is called to be humble in his/her relationship with God
But a disciple must also be humble when dealing with those he would lead.

Only love changes hearts
And while love is not always something mushy and gushy
Sometimes a person needs tough love…
Love has to be present just the same.

Only when a person knows that you really care about him/her
will they begin to seriously examine and consider what you say to them.

Yes there are times for correction
Yes there are times when a person has to be challenged
and maybe even pushed a little

But these moments will only be fruitful if the person being pushed or challenged or “motivated” knows without a shadow of a doubt that the person doing the pushing or shoving or motivating humbly cares about them.

Humility is an essential component of discipleship
and because the remnant of Israel was humble in their relationship with God
they were blessed.

The second reading from St. Paul reminds us
that we shouldn’t judge the success or failure of our discipleship by worldly standards

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,

The kingdom of God is not about numbers or percentages
Jesus only had twelve Apostles all of whom ran and hid when things went south.

The kingdom of God is not about power or influence
Anyone would have thought that Jesus was a failure.
If you look at his live and ministry he had very little of either power or influence

The crowds turned on him
He died on a cross, his disciples scattered,
He is only a footnote in contemporary history books of his time
there was not this huge visible success

God can still use us if we are weak or lowly or despised or even appear foolish

All we accomplish we accomplish in Christ.
As the reading said
If we are going to boast let us boast in the Lord

Finally on this Sunday when we contemplate discipleship
the Church give us what one author calls the Ordination homily of the Apostles

The beatitudes.

One Holy Priest I know kind of compared it to Lederman’s top ten list.

Today, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, we have a “list” --- not the “top ten” but, rather, the “top eight” things that the Lord tells us are the keys to happiness in the Kingdom of God.

They are presented in the form of a sermon and appear early in St. Matthew’s Gospel, before all the Gospel action.

These eight principles are presented in a positive way ---
they are not a list of prohibitions but, rather, they are goals for Christian living in this world.

They do not simply “deliver us from evil” but, rather, they lead us to truth.

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of Christianity and Catholicism in much the same way.
He refers to our faith as a “positive choice.”

Although when he became Pope, people expected him to be a harsh teacher,
he has offered to the Church and the world something to believe in:

his first encyclical was about love; his second,
about hope; his entire ministry about the role that faith plays in our lives

The beatitudes teach us as disciples
to trust in God’s providence
To persevere (blessed are the meek)
To be steadfast in persecution Blest are you when they insult you
To be merciful
To be peace makers.

We share in this very important mission with Christ
He needs us and he calls us

Let us follow him
Let us shepherd gently humbly
Let us not worry about worldly impressions.
So often what appears a failure will really be a success in the kingdom

Let us lead positively like the beatitude challenge us to.
You know I can’t remember the last of Letterman’s top ten list
But the beatitudes have lasted for 2000 years.

If we meditate on them and create our life around the values they present
They will lead us to eternal life


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