Gospel Lectio Divina for The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 29, 2023

By David Kilby

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

READ

Mt 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

MEDITATE

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Blessed are those whose treasure is not in this world, those who are poor in the eyes of others, and who notice their spiritual poverty if they can’t have God. They are blessed because they see the true worth in every human being, and pray for the ones who don’t have God in their lives. They are free to give of themselves, free to empty their hearts out of love in order to reveal the kingdom of heaven to others. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven because they bring that kingdom to earth.

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Jesus is not for the comfortable. The life of someone who seriously follows Jesus will be full of conflict, hardships, persecution, tragedy, and mourning. Christianity is not for the lukewarm. There are many reasons to mourn, but Christian mourning is unlike any other kind because it cuts deeper. Christ calls these Christians blessed; blessed are those who suffer those deep cuts that come from conflicts and hardships residing deep in their hearts, those cuts that so many other people do not see—moral dilemmas, the troubled and lost souls of loved ones, the lack  of holiness, righteousness and sacredness in our society—to those who suffer from these hidden conflicts and hardships, Christ brings comfort. 

He also brings comfort to those who have experienced tragedy. By difficult means, he draws people close to himself. It is in tragedy that God reveals to us a place free of tragedy and mourning. When we lose what is precious to us in this world, we can more easily set our eyes on the next. When we lose a person we love, it’s comforting to be told that they returned to the source of all love.

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land."

Meekness is a difficult balance. It is not bashfulness and it is not quite the same as humility. It’s more like magnanimity, a quality that hides accomplishments when there is no point in touting them. Yet, humility and meekness also abide by the truth. So a meek person does not cower away from a challenge when they are the right person for the task. Meekness is pragmatic. A meek person sees the value in teamwork and does not look to increase the importance of his own role. Meekness is strength under control. A meek person is capable of violence and knows when to use it, but also when to resist the temptation to use it—which often requires the greatest kind of strength, that of self-control. So, Jesus says the meek will inherit the land because they are the most competent people to do so. They are accomplished, humble, gentle, pragmatic, wise and strong. The meek are not weak. They are quite the opposite. 

"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied."

When? I think we all have a hunger and thirst for righteousness somewhere in our hearts, but perhaps we have given up on having it be satisfied. There is corruption, narcissism, heresy, and untruth spreading everywhere we turn. It’s a good thing, then, that Christ is not talking about finding righteousness in our surroundings. He began his ministry by saying, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent, because we are the cause of the lack of righteousness all around us. But also rejoice, because the one who will lead us to heaven has shown us the way. We may only get small tastes of righteousness in this life, but gratitude is in store even for those moments because that righteousness has to come from somewhere.

But what does Christ mean by righteousness, exactly? That word could be misused, especially since we don’t use it that often, except perhaps when saying someone is being “self-righteous.” I contend that this use of the term “righteous” has turned us off from the concept of righteousness in general. How often do we hear someone say, “He is a righteous man” or “She is a righteous woman” in a positive context? If the word is ever used, it often borders on being a criticism if it isn’t one outright. In today’s parlance, it is extremely difficult to be meek and humble one moment, and then claim to be right in the next. It’s practically assumed that if I’m claiming to be humble, then I’m going to regard my values as just my opinions. But to be righteous is to be right. Make no mistake. Jesus preaches the Beatitude of meekness before that of righteousness for a reason. The meek person hungers for righteousness, knowing that he won’t completely obtain it in this life–yet he tries all along and gets small glimpses of it so he can know what is right. This pursuit of righteousness keeps him meek just as the vastness of a sea keeps the stones on the shore smooth. We cannot contain the sheer potency and immensity of righteousness within ourselves, but by remaining close to righteousness we can receive its humbling effect, and it can even become an attribute of who we are just as we become a part of it.

"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

Pages, even entire books, could be written and have been written on each Beatitude. Unfortunately, I could only give reflections on the first few. Thankfully, Jesus summed up the lesson quite succinctly: Their reward will be great in heaven. Am I among them? Will Jesus remember me? Will he know me when I come knocking on heaven’s door? Or will he say, “Depart from me, you evildoer”? The answer to that question is up to me. If I hunger and thirst for righteousness, my focus will remain keen. Righteousness and holiness, or the desire to do what is good despite outside pressure and the willpower to live my life to its fullest, are what God wants from me. The Beatitudes are the perfect mindsets for keeping our eyes on heaven and–as Christ notes–heaven will be the reward if we live by them.

PRAY

Dear Lord Jesus,

Heaven can seem so far in this life, in this world, but you teach us the attitudes we should have in order to bring it closer. The Beatitudes are encouragements because they show how you empathize with our human struggle. You understand how difficult it can be to believe, and you say we are blessed when we persevere in the face of the struggle. Thank you for believing in us, for believing we can make it and for not giving up on us. Thank you for showing the way with the gospel message and the Beatitudes. In your blessed name, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen. 

LISTEN

There really isn’t much more to say because Jesus said it all so perfectly. My only intention in this last section of lectio divina is to provide a little bit of a boost as you continue your day, by giving you a reason to listen more carefully to God speaking and working in your life, or perhaps by showing you a place or a way to listen and look for him that you may not have thought of in the past. Christ says those who live by the Beatitudes are blessed. They are blessed because these virtues bring us closer to him, and to be close to him is to be blessed. Just as a plant receives nourishment by leaning into the sun, we receive nourishment by leaning into God; and we lean into God by living the Beatitudes. 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.  He received his undergrad degree in humanities and Catholic culture from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. In addition to working with the Knights of the Holy Eucharist (knights.org), he has served as a journalist for Princeton Packet Publications, and the Trenton Monitor, the magazine for the Diocese of Trenton. Some of his published work can also be found in St. Anthony Messenger, Catholic Herald (UK), and Catholic World Report. For the latter he is managing editor. Find more of his writing at ramblingspirit.com.

 

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What Is Lectio Divina?

Lectio divina means “divine reading” in Latin. It is a way of praying with Scripture that has been used by faithful Catholics for centuries. In the Middle Ages, monks practiced lectio divina to commune with God through his word. Now the practice is used by religious communities and laypeople. The method of prayer can be broken into four parts: reading, meditation, prayer and listening.

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