Reflections on the Readings
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 30, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
Inner Transformation Brings Joy
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them...
"Johnny," Mommy exclaimed with exasperation. "Stop tormenting your sister," she pleaded. All day long, Johnny was being loud and doing things he knew he shouldn't do. And then it happened. Running through the kitchen acting like a low flying plane, Johnny bumped into Mommy just as she was carrying the roast from the oven to the dinner table.
"Crash!" "Bang!" "Kapluey!" Your're right. Mommy and roast spilled onto the floor and Johnny continued flying, clueless to the disaster lying on the kitchen floor.
Struggling to regain her composure, Mommy ordered Johnny to sit quietly in the corner for ten minutes. Defiantly, Johnny traipsed to the designated corner, dragging his feet and his feelings with him. And then he uttered his last defiant disapproval: "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside!" Johnny shouted.
The Christian life is about the inside of our life; that place deep within us that raises its fist, curses, and thinks evil thoughts, and imagines acts of vengeance; where we are standing up in defiance on the inside. Scripture speaks of this inside as the 'inner man.' It is the place where Christ wants to reveal 'the riches of his glory;' the place where Christ wants to reside in every one who has faith and trust in him.
Jesus ascends the mountain and the crowds and his disciples follow him. In his teaching, he invites his followers to an elevated life; a life filled with learning how to sit down with Christ on the inside; communing with him as friend with friend.
There are eight Beatitudes, and each one is an invitation to embrace deeply within the grace that results in divine joy. They are:
1. An awareness of our need of God in our life.
2. On being contrite.
3. Living within the strength of humility.
4. Always seeking to know and to do God's will.
5. Treating others the way you would like to be treated.
6. Having a heart for God.
7. To be a peacemaker.
8. To be like Jesus, who when reviled, opened not his mouth; counting it all joy to suffer for the sake of the Lord.
The transformation that Jesus is revealing is as radical as it is necessary if we are to be called the sons and daughters of God. Our salvation depends upon it. We hear in today's gospel a call to a special disposition; a call to embrace a renewal that transforms us.
A Christian is known for his/her profound and fervent love for Jesus. The Christian life is only as vibrant as is our love for Christ. Love for Christ is to be our first love, and on the first day of the week, we celebrate his memory in the receiving of his body and blood. John the beloved reminds us that we love Jesus because he first loved us. The deeper we grow in love for the Lord, the more aware we are of his love for humanity.
We who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good seek first the true treasure, the kingdom of God and his righteousness. And we pray for the strength to see all things and all people through the eyes of an undefiled heart, a holy heart. The divine nature takes shape within us when we are contrite and embrace Jesus first, last, and always.
Our vision of God is sometimes hindered by the way we respond to the difficulties and challenges that come into our lives. We live in an age of instant coffee and instant communication. We also live daily with the temptation to rush to judgement. Nobody is perfect, just look in the mirror. Only God knows the heart. We only see folks from the outside, but God knows us from the inside out.
It seems that peace is out of reach. The daily news reminds us of wars and the rumblings of more wars to come. There is a coarsening of the culture, a denial of the goodness of life from birth to natural death. Reputations are marred by either bad behavior or by rumor. Darkness blinds the heart of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve; their humanity deceived that there is no life outside of immediate selfish pleasure. It is into this mission field that we go as witnesses to the peace of God. To the forsaken and the forgotten we testify to the indefinable and indefatigable peace of God. We are called to live our lives as peacemakers. By forgiving and asking forgiveness, we become partners with the God of all mercy and peace, bringing the healing balm of Calvary.
Some will little understand, thinking it strange that you do not join them in their wild profligacy, and will choose to revile you and abuse you and speak all manner of evil against you. Be not afraid of their faces or their words, for you are the sons and daughters of the living God. In him you live and move have your identity. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
The only presence of God some may ever know during the week will be you, renewed and adorned with the presence of Christ within. For some, the face of God will be your face - let your boast be in the Lord.
Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.