Sunday Sermon for January 29, 2023, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Zeph 2:3, 3:12-13; 1 Cor 1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12a

In the first reading today, the Lord calls all the humble of the earth to seek Him.  Interestingly, He then calls them to seek justice and humility with the hope that they would be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.  In other words, these people who are already humble must continue to strive for greater humility.  From this greater humility will flow justice and charity.  It is precisely these virtues that will provide the foundation for the renewal of humanity after the day of the Lord’s anger.

Before we address the necessity of humility for what is coming, we need to remember that God does not have emotions.  Therefore, He does not actually get angry.  However, when God decides to intervene in our world, it appears to people that He is angry.  After all, if one of us were in such a situation, we would certainly be angry. 

What is most interesting about our present situation is that no one can actually blame the Lord: we are doing it to ourselves.  Perhaps someone could suggest it is God’s fault because He allowed us to go so far astray.  However, He created us with free will and will not interfere in how we use our free will.  He is, indeed, going to intervene, but not until we have pushed it to the point of no return.

Because things are going to get so bad, we recognize that this will provide us with the opportunity to exercise our faith in a profound way.  It will appear that evil will have won and it may seem like there is no hope.  This is where humility becomes an absolute necessity.  Pride will cause us to do one of two things: we will try to control things ourselves or we will walk away from God to fit in with those who seem to be in power.

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us along with them, that most of us are not wise by worldly standards, nor powerful, nor of noble birth.  Instead, he tells us, God chooses the foolish of the world, the weak, and the lowly.  Why?  So that no one can boast before the Lord.  Those who are humble will allow the Lord to be strong, they will trust in the Lord instead of trusting in their own devices. 

Over the ages there have been many people who were noble, strong, or powerful.  When they turned their lives over to the Lord, they had to learn to be simple, weak, and dependent.  When people live this way, they fly “under the radar” because no one pays any attention to them and no one expects anything great from them.  Much to the surprise of those who think this way, God works His greatest miracles through the lowly.

When we consider some of the greatest people who ever lived, we see the littleness in them, even though great things were accomplished through them.  Think of Abraham or Moses or King David in the Old Testament.  These men had to endure a great deal of purification to become as humble as they needed to be in order to accomplish what God asked of them.  Think of our Blessed Lord, our Blessed Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Baptist.  Our Lord and our Lady are the most humble persons ever, and St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist are among the most humble.  Think of the amazing things God accomplished through them!

So, when we hear Jesus’ words in the Gospel and we recognize the Beatitudes are polar opposites of what the world holds up as blessed, we begin to understand that true greatness can happen only when a person is humble.  This is also why St. Paul can tell us that it is when he is weak that he is strong and that human wisdom is foolishness in the eyes of God.  True wisdom, strength, and nobility are given by God only when we are humble.

Notice that Abraham, Moses, and David were all leaders of the people.  To lead people, one needs certain talents.  To lead God’s people, as God’s people, one needs grace and humility.  Abraham, Moses, and David clearly possessed these talents, but rather than boasting about their own abilities or accomplishments, they acknowledged their weakness and dependence on God, and gave credit to Him for everything.  In her humility, our Lady was willing and able to accept the invitation to be the Mother of God, the highest gift ever granted. 

Acknowledge your dependence on God. Seek humility, then true wisdom, strength, nobility, and the blessings of the Beatitudes will be yours.  You will not seek these things to boast of them; the humble think little of themselves, but they confound the powerful of the world and glorify the Lord.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit