FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Wind or Rain, Bright or Overcast: these
are External Factors
First Reading (Jer I:4-5, 17-19):
God appointed Jeremiah prophet to the nations Second Reading (1Cor 12:31-13:13:Preaching
without love is false
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,”(Phil 4:6-7)
In the verse just before the above passage Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4) And in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians he emphasizes the same even more, writing, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”(1Thess 5:16-18)
Always, continuously, at all times: Scripture has revealed it to us. It is a point of emphasis in our faith, a fundamental note, a primary melody throughout life. Therefore, no matter what circumstances we meet in life, if we take the Bible as our lifelong ‘guide,’ we will without a doubt have a joyful spirit in facing all of life's challenges.
‘Always be joyful’: truly not to lose this joy for one second; ‘continuously pray:’ let no situation whatever prevent us from continuing to pray; ‘give thanks at all times’: no matter what befalls us it will not stop us from giving thanks.
But how can we really be joyful? Is life truly so perfect? Is everything really as if it is always as joyful as the Chinese (Lunar) New Year's greetings, peaceful and harmonious with people and nature throughout the land?
How can we really be thankful? Do we really have no complaints? Bitterness, restlessness, disappointments that fill our lives, is it not too ironic to express thanks?
Then how can we pray? Is God really worthy of that much trust? Can God see or hear all the sadness and affliction that fills our world? If God is 'almighty', why does He not spare the world so much grief? If God is 'all good', why is God not willing to remove the grief? Does God really love us?
In the Ming dynasty, an unknown poet wrote this poem: “Ye Old Heaven, you are getting old. You are deaf, you are blind. You cannot see a thing. You cannot hear a word. Those who kill and set fire are enjoying wealth and prosperity. Vegetarians and pious people are starving to death. Ye Old Heaven, you do not know how to be a heaven. You are getting ready to collapse!”(1)
Is there not some truth in this doggerel? Is God really fair and just? Yet Scripture does not offer promises that will be broken. Therefore amidst the world's turbulence and life's uncertainties, we still should be joyful, full of gratitude and always prayerful. Is that possible?
Today's Scripture on the Eight Beatitudes in fact can make us wonder and find it difficult to understand. Poverty, sadness, persecution are disasters in life, we fear them and want to avoid them. How can it be that Christ transforms them and says “Blessed are they…”?
Actually whether we want it or not, from the beginning the world has been like that, as the saying goes, ‘Calamities in life come in bunches.’ Yet under such circumstances, it is true there are people who face life sorrowfully and at the same time there really are people who face it happily and with courage. That is to say, the same kind of life can have different results, some happy, some sorrowful. It depends entirely on how we view the world and how we choose our attitude toward life.
Jesus teaches us an attitude toward life whereby we can be happy under any circumstances. For a Christian it is possible to be always joyful, thankful for everything and continually praying. There is only one pre-requisite and that is that God reigns in our hearts.
Blessed are the poor for the kingdom of heaven is theirs, God is within them. And that God is the source of all happiness and joy. When one's heart is no longer filled with anything else but God alone, then who can take away such joy?
The winds and storms of life come and go, life is full of uncertainties; but if our hearts are filled with brightness, that is sufficient to enable us to overcome all that comes to us.
There was an ancient sage called Zeng Zi who was very poor. Clothing, food, housing were problems for him. Zhuang Zi wrote about him: “For three days there was no cooking, for ten years no new clothes were made.”(2) But he lived happily and often sang. “His voice filled heaven and earth and his songs sounded as if they were coming from gold and jade. The emperor could not have him for a minister nor the lords for a friend.”(3)
His life was carefree and very satisfactory. He paid no attention to emperors, feudal lords, princes, dukes or ministers. Zhuang Zi wrote that not even the emperor could summon him at will, nor could princes and dukes make his acquaintance. “The emperor could not have him for a minister, nor the lords for friend.”
Why was he able to reach a state of such happiness? No other reason than that his life was filled with vitality as a result of his happiness.
In our own faith, may we meet all the challenges of life with Paul's spirit of total forgetfulness of cares and worries and the joyous heart of Zeng Zi.