Archive for the ‘Christian Service’ Category

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

January 30, 2011

Today’s readings all focus on the poor.  In the first reading, the poor are those who are oppressed by the powerful and are treated unjustly: yet they put all of their hope in God.  In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that God often chooses the weak and insignificant of this world and that if we are to boast, we should only boast in the Lord.  In the Gospel, Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit.

Why all the focus on the poor?  First, we should clarify what we mean by poor.  Our Lord says blessed are the poor in spirit.  What does it mean to be poor in spirit?  Poor in spirit does not merely mean materially poor.  There can be people who live in poverty who are not poor in spirit just as there can be people who are quite wealthy who are poor in spirit.  Poor in spirit refers to that spirit of detachment from the things of the world.

Why should we be detached from the things of the world?  Aren’t the things of the world created by God and therefore good?  God has created everything that exists and what God created is good by its nature.  The problem comes when we allow ourselves to become inordinately attached to the things of the world, when we love creation more than we love its Creator.

There are several dangers that come with material things.  One of the dangers is greed.  The more that we have, the more we are tempted to want more.  Another danger that can come is envy: when I have lots of nice things, I can be tempted to not want other people to have nicer things than I have.  Yet another danger of material things is that they can give us a false sense of security.  When we have lots of nice things it can become easy to forget that everything that we have that is good came to us from the hand of God.  We ought to always be grateful to God for the many blessings that we have in our lives.  Hearts full of gratitude to God help us to remember that we are not self-sufficient, but we depend upon God for everything: including our next breath.

When we have many possessions in this world we can live very comfortably in this world and that comfort we can tempt us to forget that this is not our permanent home.  This life is only a preparation for the life of the world to come.  We must not allow ourselves to get so distracted by the things of this world that we lose sight of the fact that Heaven is our ultimate goal.

It might seem like God is asking a lot from us by asking us to be poor in spirit, yet He is not asking us to do anything that He did not do Himself.  From before time began the Eternal Son of God dwelt in Heaven at the right hand of the Father in perfect happiness and glory.  Yet in order to save us He willingly laid aside that glory and became one of us.  The Son of God emptied Himself of the glory that He had from all eternity and was born in a manger in the cold.  The Eternal Son, Who was worshipped by Angels in Heaven, did not cling to His place at the right hand of the Father; He willingly came to earth where the only people to welcome Him were Mary and Joseph.  Jesus became a man like us in all things except for sin and He did not come to earth as a king, He lived among us as one who was poor: He did not have a place to lay His head.  In Heaven He was served by all the Angels, on earth He washed the feet of His disciples.  He is the Lord of the universe, yet He said that He came to serve and not to be served.  Jesus came to show us the way: He came to be an example and a model for us.  We are to imitate Him; we are to be poor in spirit.

In order to be poor in spirit, we have to keep our hearts from being inordinately attached to the things of this world.  How do we do that?  We begin by calling to mind often the fact that we have received everything good from God and thank Him for all the blessings that we have received from Him.  Then, we imitate Our Lord: we seek to help others.  When I realize that God has freely given so many good things to me, how can I refuse to help others?  Jesus said that what we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him.  When we reach out beyond ourselves to help those who are in need we help them, but we are also blessed in many ways.  We can help others in many different ways: it can come through sharing the goods that I have; it can also come through my actions.  Even if we cannot afford to help others who are less fortunate, we can always do something to help others.  We might chose to help strangers, perhaps through one of the ministries we have here at the Church, or we might help those that we know or members of our own families.  God is generous with us and we are called to imitate Him and be generous to others in return.  All that we have we have received as a gift and God calls us to use the gifts that we have received in service of others through love.  God has given us much, what have we given to Him in return?