As a connoisseur of the Lectionary, I usually know what is coming any given Sunday, but for the life of me I can never keep track of these Sundays in ordinary time. Sometimes the readings are ones I find less than inspiring (Paul’s HiHowAreYa? from a few Sundays ago being an example), and sometimes the readings pounce on me with their power.
Today’s readings are chockablock with memorable passages: But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: the remnant of Israel. (Zep 3:12) God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)
After watching Gustavo Gutierrez dissect the Sermon on the Mount like a surgeon, I have forever vowed to not ever try to explain them, so I’m not even going to touch the Beatitudes today. I will add this comment: today’s readings, for many of us, add up to a whole heap of things we don’t want to know.
God will choose the humble and lowly? God will choose the weak and the foolish? Blessed are the poor? Uh-oh. I, for one, am not ready to give up my stature and accomplishments. I’ve worked so hard to be strong and wise and well-respected. I have bought in to the world’s standards, and I worry that I am not brave enough to abandon them.
So we make excuses and exercise false modesty to try to shake the guilt we feel when we hear these readings. If I use my power on behalf of the weak, if I share my resources with the poor, then I can ignore the theme that is proclaimed throughout the Scripture: God is on the side of the little guy.
God speaks to us in words that confound us, and thank heavens they do because I wouldn’t want to have God all figured out. I can’t explain or understand how these readings fit in my life, but I don’t have to. I can just accept them and be moved by them.
What I think is strength is posturing and weakness, what I think is wisdom is foolishness in it’s arrogance. The silliness of my stature is emptier than I imagine. If I can’t count myself among the poor, the lowly, and the humble, I can at least count myself among the foolish.
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