Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Sunday Readings


The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 29, 2023


Readings: Zephaniah 2.3; 3.12-13;  1st Corinthians 1.26-31;  Matthew 5.1-12

Self-reliant, poised, sophisticated, well-developed in mind and body, and animated with
self-confidence—are all descriptions of the ideal modern achiever.  Such a person has dug deep into himself or herself and is comfortable with personal power and its flowering into successful modes of living.  At least that is the image that is sold as the perfect life.

Here is an opposite description.  Spiritually and mentally wounded, bearing memories of past failures and sins, weighed down with burdens of sickness, family misfortunes, the daily toil of living day by day, looking for a center of strength, and a moment of respite—describe many of us who live out our existences in the context of struggle.  More often this description truly describes, more or less, our imperfect existence.  But certainly we do not attain the ideal of a completely care-free life.

Is it a question of the glass half-empty or half-full?  Or is it that we by our very nature bear within us simultaneously blessings and wounds?

When we place ourselves in the light of God’s Revelation we see that we are a paradox.  We are basically good because we are made in the image and likeness of God, redeemed in the power of the Son of God.  We are, also, deep-down-wounded in our human nature which has fallen from complete harmony with God and His creation.  The reality of original sin is part of our story.  We are members of the human race, of particular societies and of families that have continued the patterns of rebellion against God’s loving harmony of creation.  In addition, we all experience actual sin.

It is from this multiple condition of transcendence amid self-destructive self-centeredness, that we look up and out, in our contemplative gaze of love, upon the Face of God.  The Face of God is Christ in whom we see the saving, loving compassion of God’s infinite power to lift us up into divine union.

The basic grace of our redemption in Christ is our cooperation with his Holy Spirit to look up into the Face of the Father to long for union and return to the divine relationship of divine adoption.

  Seek the Lord, all of you humble of the earth, who have observed his law (First Reading).

Look up out of yourself—seek the Lord.  That is the first grace.  Then follows the grace to accept the condition of our fallen humanity—“all you humble of the earth.”  What is necessary is our turning to God.  Once we move out of ourselves and are in process of moving into God we are fulfilling the basic law of God which is to see God as the totality of our existence:  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

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 (First Reading).  That’s the first hurdle on the path to divine union.  We are moved by grace to disassociate ourselves from the throng enamored of the mainstream culture.  Belonging to the right group of people is not the key to enlightenment.  “Humble”, “lowly” are not favorite terms among the “smart” people of our culture.  To be a remnant and not in the spotlight is not exactly the most sought-after attainment.  But it is the place from which the ascent to God begins.  The ascent begins from our awareness of our powerlessness to save ourselves.

God, who has created all things in wisdom and power and goodness, moves into the most abandoned pile of humanity to pull out those whom he has chosen.

  He chose the world’s lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who were something, so that mankind can do no boasting before God (Second Reading).

Our readings now bring us to the point of divine union.  What is that which brings us into God and God into us?  It is to leave ourselves.  It is simply and uniquely the Person of Jesus.  The Presence of Jesus our Savior is the way and the end of all.  It is through Him that we move into the Father in the Holy Spirit.  The taking of His Name upon our hearts is the beginning of our love story with God.  God it is who has given you life in Christ Jesus.  He has made him our wisdom and our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption (Second Reading).

The Gospel Reading, line after line, speaks of the paradox of our simultaneous happiness and our woundedness.  Who are the blessed?  You will find your blessedness in poverty of spirit.  Is that true?  Yes, Jesus tells us, because in your acceptance of your human condition in faith, hope and love, you belong to the Kingdom of God.  And so on.  The sorrowing, the lowly, the givers of mercy, the seekers after holiness, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted:  All these are blessed because they live out their being of God; they live their being reborn in the death and resurrection of Jesus our Savior.  God has made him our wisdom and also our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption (Second Reading).

Living the contemplative life is to live in the two great abysses.  One abyss is the mystery of who we are in our transcendence and our fallenness.  The other abyss is the mystery of our being in Christ through the grace of baptism.  The Holy Spirit brings us into the depths of the Father’s love. The joy of the Kingdom, here and here after, is the eternal discovery of our mystery within the mystery of God. 

We have this joy of divine love because God has loved us and has chosen us to be reborn into the divine Triune life in our absolute unworthiness.  It takes all the power of the Holy Eucharist to give thanks and to be further enveloped into the divine life in Holy Communion.  Daily, our periods of silent, recollected prayer, of the prayer of simplicity and of adoration, is to surrender to this Presence and Work, like Mary did, like the Saints, like the whole Church, the Mystical Body of Christ in the communion of the Holy Trinity.


--William Fredrickson, (OblSB; D.Min.)



For questions, comments or other communication, please contact:
William Frederickson