Monday, 24 January 2011

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12
My small Sunday Missal introduces today’s Mass as follows:
Our Nothingness
Yes, we can celebrate today our nothingness in the eyes of the world because God has looked on our humility and lowliness and given us the wisdom, virtue and holiness of Christ. He alone is our boast.
That’s not a bad little introduction and it’s completely accurate.
In our liturgy today we do indeed celebrate our nothingness, firstly as the people of God and, above all, our own personal nothingness, a reality, a truth, a freedom, a treasure each one of us must discover for himself if we are ever to call ourselves mature Christians.
We need to make a distinction, however, between the nothingness of being without social status, talent, education, riches or power (what the world thinks common and contemptible) and the nothingness we discover ourselves to be when standing in the presence of God.
From the awareness of this interior nothingness Zephaniah counsels us in the first reading to seek the Lord in humility and lowliness. The psalmist, too, acknowledges the power and love of God from out of his own nothingness with the insistent cry: It is the Lord .. It is the Lord .. It is the Lord.
St Paul includes himself in his proud declaration to the Corinthians that God has chosen those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything; while Jesus lovingly speaks God’s word to the crowd, the same crowd for whom he was sorry, because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd … mere nothings. (Mtt 9:36)
And so we really shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge our nothingness – not, as wannabe Christians often do, in a glib surface fashion - but in a profoundly honest testimony to the way we experience our deepest selves before the love and justice of God.
Our nothingness can be called a place, deep within us, deep within our heart and mind. It is a place to which we need to find the path. It is not a frightening, dim, morbid reality of our existence but a place of encounter and hope; it is the place in which we look for and come face to face with God because it is the place in which God waits for us. For this reason it is the place we go to pray.
We make our way down into our deepest centre, past whatever gifts we may possess, ignoring whatever social standing we may have, ignoring all that we think we have achieved in life, deeper and deeper we go until we come to that place where we are nothing. In that place we will find God, in that place he will listen to us, in that place he loves us and his love makes us someone.
So we see that the only way to become someone is to draw close to the Lord, to his grace. But let us understand: we bring our nothingness to God not in the way that a car owner brings his wreck to the garage so that the mechanic can work on it and restore it to the owner in good working order so it can go its way. That’s not how we come to Jesus. We are not like a sick man leaving the hospital having been cured of his disease. We come to Jesus in our nothingness and he doesn't take that nothingness away, he just fills it with himself.
Isn’t this the wonderful thing about the Consecration at Mass? Here are the disciples all sitting around the table of the Last Supper, not just the Twelve, but all the disciples of all time, past and present and future, all sitting around the table with the Lord, all sitting there in their nothingness. And the Lord says over the bread: This is my body, and over the wine: This is my blood.
Then he gives the bread, his body, to the nothings and they become filled with him, they become like him, and the blood of Christ begins to flow through them, through their nothingness, and they are strong.
God loves our nothingness because it is the only place where he can give himself to us. When we are close to him we are strong; when we leave him we return to our emptiness and we are weak.
Every Christian should look forward to that great day when God will definitively, once and for all, fill our nothingness with himself. Let us be ready – gentle, humble, just and willing to forgive and let us never let go of our beloved nothingness.

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