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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13
Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Matthew 5:1-12a
January 29, 2017

The prophet Zephaniah wrote in the 7th century B.C.  This is shortly before Jerusalem falls to the Babylonian Empire.  He speaks of how Israel did not listen to God’s voice or draw near to God.

Zephaniah speaks of how the Lord will leave a “remnant of Israel” who will take refuge in the Lord.  The Kingdom of Israel had already shrunk some when the northern kingdom fell to Assyria in the 8th Century B.C. and soon (at the time Zephaniah writes), the southern kingdom will fall but there will always be some who keep the faith as the “remnant of Israel.”

It is in knowing all this that our first reading began today, “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility.

Zephaniah uses the word “seek” three times in this one sentence, the first of which is with regards to the Lord himself, and the other two with regards to the virtues of justice and humility (both of which are a vital part of our faith.)

What does it mean to “seek the Lord?”

In human terms, we could define seeking the Lord as to try and learn about the Lord.  In action, it can be to spend time in prayer and coming to Mass.

How much effort do we put into our seeking?  Obviously the fact that we come to Mass shows some effort.  Celebrating the Eucharist is the source and summit of what we do as Catholics but is it the only thing we do?

I recently finished reading Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry A. Weddell (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division. Huntington, IN. 2012).  She describes five “thresholds” of our faith that I believe are a good way of thinking about the depth of our seeking.

The first threshold is “trust.”  Now I have to admit that when I saw trust as the first (lowest) I was surprised because I immediately thought of “trust” as trusting in the Lord, which I certainly won’t put as the lowest level.  As I read I discovered that she was using “trust” in terms of our trust in other people or things.  For instance, maybe the first time you came to church was because of a friend or family member who you trust and invited you here.  Maybe you can include here that mom or dad said you have to come.

The second threshold is “curiosity”.  You’ve heard something about God, the Church, or some aspect of our faith that has triggered some curiosity in you.  You aren’t sure where it is going but you want to know more.

The third threshold is “openness”.  You’ve experienced something you like or your heart and soul have been touched and you ask more but you aren’t quite ready to change your life yet.

The fourth and fifth threshold become harder to distinguish.  Number four is “seeking” and the fifth is “intentional discipleship.”  In moving to the fourth threshold of seeking, one has a definite interest in our faith and has begun to engage with their faith.  When we have reached the fifth threshold of intentional discipleship we have turned our lives to God and being a disciple has become the priority of our life.

Where would you put yourself in terms of the five thresholds of trust, curiosity, openness, seeking, and intentional discipleship?  You can’t assume just because you are coming to church you are an intentional disciple.  In fact, Sherry Weddell puts most practicing Catholics in the third or fourth threshold.

What are indicators of “intentional discipleship”?  I think we see some in our readings today.  Paul speaks of those who are wise and powerful by human standards as opposed to the foolish, the weak, and the lowly.  It is the latter who are open to God.  To be disciples we have to realize that we can’t do it all ourselves.  We need to be willing to put in some hard effort but to be intentional disciples, we have to realize how much we need God.

We also see it on our gospel reading, known as the Beatitudes.  We also see the reward of intentional discipleship.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”  To be “poor in Spirit” is to realize how much we need God.  When we fully open ourselves to God, we receive the Kingdom of Heaven.

The same could be seek for the meek who are described as blessed.  Then, when we “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” we stop seeing things our own way and worrying about ourselves and realize that God has a better way.  When we set aside the things of this world, we receive what we are created for, the fullness of God’s grace and we are “satisfied.

If we want to be “intentional disciples,” we need to stop worrying about what others think or worldly things to put God at the top of our priorities, to put God at the top of our lives.

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