Monday, February 11, 2008

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Zeph 2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Cor 1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12

When I was a young adult, I was full of ambitions. I have dreamed of becoming rich, of being able to build a beautiful mansion, of having an expensive sports car and of marrying a beautiful, gorgeous wife. I also have wished of becoming a star basketball player and even of becoming president of the Philippines.

Why did I dream of such things? It was because I was thinking that happiness lies in money, glory and power. Perhaps you can easily relate with me because at one time or another in your life you also have dreamed of worldly things. Maybe you also thought that wealth, fame and influence can make you fully happy.

Bill Gates is considered one of the richest in the whole world. Yet, he surprised us one time when he said: “How I wish all of you will be rich like me, that you become billionaires like me, so that you also will realize that true happiness is not found in material possessions.”

Like Gates, many affluent, prominent and influential people have come to realize that money, fame and power do not guarantee authentic happiness. It is no surprise that every now and then we hear of wealthy people committing suicide, famous people having severe depressions, and presidents or rulers suffering nervous breakdown. How are we going to explain these realities?

Today’s gospel provides us with a clue. Jesus says that the “poor in spirit” are blessed. Unlike many of us, the Lord does not consider fortunate the rich, the famous and the powerful.

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? Who are the poor in spirit? Why are they blessed?

When Jesus used the word “poor”, he did so against an entire background of Old Testament theology. The poor of God (anawim) in the Old Testament were those individuals who did not rely on any worldly means to face life’s difficulties and challenges. They did not trust in material wealth, military strength, or political influence. Rather, they depended solely on God to provide and nourish them, protect and support them, guide and lead them through life. The first reading says that these people were humble and lowly and they took refuge in the name of the Lord.

For Jesus, therefore, the “poor in spirit” are those people who know their need for God. They are the ones who understand that apart from God they can do nothing. They are those who recognize that God is the Creator of all things and that He is in control of everything under the sun. They are the people who know that God has a special heart for the poor, and that He never will abandon them in their need.

Jesus tells us that the “poor in spirit” are blessed for they will find true happiness and meaning in life. Nothing is nearer to the truth. Those who fully trust in God’s providence would live calmly and joyfully. They would keep a positive, cheerful outlook in life.

In times of serious problems, the “poor in spirit” will say: “I am hurting because of these problems. But I am going to be okay. The Lord will console me. He will help me find solution to my problems.”

In times of great failures, the “poor in spirit” will say: “I fail now, I am hurting, but I will not fail always. I am not discouraged. The Lord will guide and lead me to success. There is always sunshine after every rain.”

In times of trials and persecutions, the “poor in spirit” will say: “I am a victim of injustice. But I will remain strong and steadfast because the Lord will come to my rescue. He will defend my cause and I will be justified.”

In times of conflict, the “poor in spirit” will say: “Let us be calm and remain reasonable. Let us respect one another. Let conscience guide us. God knows who between us is right or wrong.”

In other words, the “poor in spirit” are blessed not because they don’t have the money, influence and power. Rather, they are fortunate because they have God who owns everything and who controls everything.

It is all right if one gets rich, as long as he doesn’t forget that God remains the owner of everything, and as long as he uses his property to help people in need. It is in giving and in sharing that one finds joy and consolation.

There is nothing wrong if one gets famous, as long as he remembers that God is the source of all that is good, and as long as he remains humble. It is in being unassuming that one gains the appreciation and respect of others.

It is fine for one to become powerful, as long as he recognizes that God is the Omnipotent One, and as long as he uses his power and authority to serve the good of others. It is in serving that one finds meaning, peace and contentment.