Sofia, Bulgaria (shutterstock.com)
As you may or may not know, Nissa and I adopted two children from Bulgaria about a year ago. As part of the adoption process, we visited with the children in Bulgaria two different times. The first was in a very small village in the far distant region of the country. And the second was in the capital city Sofia. We got an opportunity to see much of the country.
Bulgaria is a former republic of the Soviet Union, who recently became an independent nation. No matter where we were, the country looked like pictures you’ve probably seen, all the buildings are the same color, the same architecture. Almost all are what we would consider run down, walls cracked, plaster and paint falling off. Inside, they were not any better. Even the national museums were obviously in disrepair. The roads were terrible, torn up and patched together.
By our standards, Bulgaria is a third world country. The thing that really stood out was within that environment of poverty, everyone was wearing designer clothes, everyone sported their own smart phone, everyone drove expensive cars.
And there we were, traveling 5000 miles to rescue two children abandoned in an orphanage, minimally cared for, while everyone around them was more concerned with pretending to be wealthy than loving their neighbor.
Everyone was focused on the wrong thing.
And that is exactly what today’s Scripture readings are trying to save us from. We must stop and reflect on what God is telling us!
The first reading is from the Prophet Zephaniah telling us how to follow the Lord: do no wrong and tell no lies! What a wonderful world this would be if everyone lived that way!
Even when we fail, we need to keep striving to live that way. The challenge of course is that our present world no longer knows what is good and what is wrong. The world does not know truth from lies.
We are surrounded on every side with values that are so different from the values given to us by Jesus that we can become confused. Far too often, whatever the present cultures wants to call good is accepted as good and whatever it wants to call bad is accepted as bad.
Yet, we who follow the Lord Jesus, have the Word of God to form us and to guide us into all truth.
The second reading is from a Letter from St Paul to the Corinthians. This letter reminds us that if we actually do choose to follow the Word of God and to follow Jesus as our Savior, we will be considered fools. And this is still true for us today.
But we are told in this reading: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise.” It is our foolishness in following Jesus that can actually bring light to the world and perhaps even draw the world back to God.
The early Christians knew that to live in Christ was to fight against the values of their world. The early Christians even knew that they might have to die to proclaim the truth given to us in Christ Jesus.
Today, we like to be comfortable and to be well off. There is nothing wrong with that by itself, but when we are willing to water down the Word of God in order to maintain a comfortable life style, then we must recognize that we are betraying Jesus as our Lord.
We must be able to stand up for the truth of the teachings of Scripture and of our Catholic Church. When we find ourselves compromising because we don’t want to bother others, then we are guilty of passing on the lies of our current culture.
Today’s Gospel reading gives us what is called the Beatitudes. These are the all important teachings of Jesus that tell us how to follow the Lord: poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ. This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!
The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God. We must follow Jesus with all of our strength. When we fail, we must get up and start again. Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.
Today we are invited us to renew our commitment to the follow the Lord. We should walk in His ways and accept all the suffering that may bring us. That way we can walk in His kingdom but now and forever.
Some content from Homily by Abbott Philip OSB