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January 2023

Happy Are You When ...

We are happy when we are hungry for righteousness or merciful to others, or making peace. We are happy when we are pure or persecuted, because the King of the kingdom of God is with us, near us. Our happiness is not based on what people think of our acts of mercy or the correctness of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. Our happiness is not dependent on the world’s definition of peace, purity, or persecution and sacrificial service. Our happiness is grounded on our relationship to the King of this kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is our goal. The kingdom of God defines our happiness. It is in the kingdom of God that we shall receive mercy, comfort, and satisfaction. It is in the kingdom of God where we will be called sons and daughters of God, inheritors of the earth, and seeing God in a most intimate way.

Proximity To The Kingdom Of God

Jesus said: “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!” (Matthew 5:3-5. GNB)

In this passage we say, “Happy are you when you are poor. Happy are you when you mourn. Happy are you when you are meek.” And so, we go down the eight blessings of this Beatitudes or Teaching of Jesus. Now, if we look closely, we have to ask ourselves: What kind of happiness is this? How can we be happy when we are poor, mourning, or meek? This is a valid question. However, Jesus is reminding his listeners and us, the readers of this Beatitudes, that happiness is not based on our present circumstances or the type of feelings we have, but on our proximity to the kingdom of God. If we are seeking the kingdom of God like Jesus is doing, then we will be happy no matter what, even if we are poor, mourning, or meek. If we are close to the Ruler of the Universe, the King of God’s kingdom, just like Jesus is close to the Father, then we are proclaimed happy persons. Happy are those who are close to the kingdom of God.

Road To Discovery

The road to discovery means seeing new things and trying out untested ways that lead to beauty and a life of encouragement. When Jesus called his first disciples, he invited them to follow him saying: “Come and see.” (John 1:39). 

This is a call to a life of discovery. In this (January 15th) week’s Lectionary Gospel Reading in John 1:29-42, Jesus does not say: “I am going to heaven. Come and follow me.” It is not an invitation to travel to a certain place or to do a particular religious lifestyle. Rather, Jesus invites them to follow him and in this adventure, they will discover new things.

Most of the times, this invitation is unsettling and disturbing. It means changes and many uncomfortable adjustments in our lives. Most of us would prefer a level of certainty, such as heaven, or a mode of comfort and security. But Jesus’ call is an invitation to a life of adventure, a journey to fulfill God’s will in our lives.

So, what new discoveries are you encountering today in your journey with Jesus?

Joseph Became A Refugee

Joseph took his family and crossed the border into Egypt, and became refugees in a foreign land. What was the reason for their departure? Was it necessary for them to flee to Egypt and live the life of an unwanted immigrant? The angel could have said: “Do not leave for God will command His angels concerning you, to guard you.” Or, he could have said: “Stay and God will fight for you.” No. Instead, our lectionary reading states that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 

Our Gospel Reading for this week, the first week of January 2023, is in Matthew 2:13-23. In this lectionary reading we find the answer to our search for a reason for Joseph’s family fleeing their homeland. Verse 15 presents to us the reason—This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” This verse quotes Hosea 11:1 and relates the life of a sojourner and a refugee in a foreign land. 

More particularly, I think the reason was didactic in nature, aimed at teaching Joseph a valuable lesson as the father of the Son of Man. The flight to Egypt gave Joseph a perspective on the life of a refugee. It gave Joseph a better understanding of the kind of life his son Jesus is going to take here in earth. Joseph’s life as a refugee in Egypt made him a better father to Jesus.

So, Matthew 2:13 states that the angel said to Joseph: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you.” And if I maybe allowed to say, the angel probably continued saying: “Live in Egypt as a sojourner and a refugee of the land. Live among the poor so that you will learn how your Son will bring the kingdom of God among them.  Mourn with them so that you will partake of your son’s ministry of comfort. Be humble as a stranger of the land because this is what your son Jesus will be doing in his life as an adult. He will take the form of a servant and will not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Be merciful and seek peace in the land, and you will be called Joseph the father of the Son of Man." (Compare, Matthew 5:2-12 and Philippians 2:5-11).