Our culture, and the cultures throughout all of history, place an enormous value on success, productivity, honor and glory. The “American Dream” tells us that anybody, regardless of their circumstances can make something great of themselves with enough hard work and determination. Today’s Gospel is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He gives a list of who the blessed are, which doesn’t match the common sensibility. But, that’s God’s way–always turning the culture on its head.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
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.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Our culture determines the success of an individual by their productivity, wealth, and market viability. We are groomed from our youth to make our mark on the planet–to stand out and stand above everyone else; whether in sports, academic achievement, business, popularity, beauty…whatever. God has an entirely different set of values. We are told in the first reading, that while everyone else was going crazy and being sucked into the madness of the culture, God would keep a “remnant”–a word used often in the Jewish Scriptures–who would remain faithful to God and refrain from doing wrong. They will be “humble and lowly”; two qualities in people that God loves very much. People who are humble and lowly know their value–they recognize that they are loved just as they are, not needing to prove anything or do anything to gain that love. They understand their value in God’s eyes and respond to that love by reciprocating it to other people.
The second reading backs this up with Paul’s encouragement of the people in Corinth. God chose normal folks; not the cream of the crop in business savvy, not the supermodels or politicians to be the sharers of the good news. In order to share God’s love effectively, you have to have felt it deeply yourself. People who are not busy trying to keep up with the Joneses have more time and openness to experiencing God in their daily lives. No matter what anyone else in the world might think of you, basing their opinion in things that don’t matter, God loves you perfectly.
Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, a three chapter homily full of some of the most important teachings of our faith, with the Beatitudes. Some have said that they are the “be attitudes”; the attitudes that every Christian should adopt as the foundation for everything else they do. Again, Jesus is putting out some of the most counter-cultural thoughts that have ever been spoken. Jesus says that the poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted, and those spoken badly of are the most blessed people. By almost anyone’s standards, that would be nuts. How is a mourning person blessed?! They are blessed because they are in need. That’s almost crazier. But, not really. The fact is that every single human being on the planet is in need in some way. But, to recognize your need, to accept and embrace it and to be open to receiving the remedy to your need brings healing, honor, dignity, the ability to see God where others would miss it, and even heaven.
How do you choose your friends? Do you like them for the stuff they have, because they are popular, or because they are kind? What is your favorite thing about your best friend?
Christianity is an extremely counter-cultural faith. What are some teachings in our faith that you can identify as counter-cultural (like loving your enemies, putting other’s needs before your wants, being humble)? What value do you see in embracing these counter-cultural teachings?
Which of the Beatitudes is the most challenging for you? What is one practical way that you can live that Beatitude more fully? What do you think the benefit would be?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”