The central theme, as I perceive it, in all three of the readings (and even in the responsorial psalm) offered for our reflection on this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time is strength in weakness. We are the ones whom the Lord Jesus addresses in this selection from Saint Matthew’s Gospel. We are poor in spirit. We mourn, longing to be comforted. We hunger and thirst. In these Beatitudes, the Lord Jesus presents to us the way the world is supposed to be, the way we are supposed to be, instead of how we experience the world and the way we experience ourselves to be. We are weak, in and of ourselves. This weakness of ours is due to our fallen human nature, the result of original sin.

So, what exactly is original sin? We read in the catechism that original sin is, ultimately, lack of trust in the Creator and abuse of the great gift of free will given to us from God our Father. (CCC 397)

In this sin of choosing to disobey the one thing that the Creator had asked our first parents to do, namely not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve forget their place in the universe. They forgot that God is Creator and that they are creatures. “They who were called to be ‘like God’ suddenly decided that they wanted to be ‘without God, before God and not in accordance with God’ ” (CCC 398) They who were created in the image and likeness of God began to reflect a distorted likeness (CCC 400), almost like in a funhouse mirror. Everything is put into disarray and all relationships are thrown asunder.

In human relationships, the human being is divided in himself and in his thoughts. He knows in the deepest part of his soul that he is created to know, serve and love God in this life and to be with Him in the next. But if he’s honest, he knows he really wants to serve himself first. His focus is on the things of this world, not on his true home, heaven. The human being’s relationship with the world is now disordered.

As the catechism reminds us, “visible creation has become alien and hostile to man,” and relationships with fellow humans have become difficult. Even the most primordial relationship, that of man and woman, is “subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.” (CCC 400) We see the bad fruits of sin: a three-fold alienation of the human being from God, others and self. And we see the true wages of sin: death. This is the world in which we find ourselves. We are longing for a savior to come. And, indeed, he has. It is the Lord who comes, a God of mercy who is a God of Justice. It is this God who comes to save us.

God is the liberator, the one who frees his Chosen People from oppression. It is He, with His strong and fatherly arm who carries His children out of Egypt. It is God as the God of hesed, God’s tender and faithful, covenant love. In the Old Testament, merciful love — hesed — goes hand and hand with justice and justice is such a comprehensive term that it is equivalent to salvation. God’s mercy is seen, concretely manifested in His saving justice.

God will always vindicate His people. It is He who cares for the poor and the afflicted. He is the father to the widows and the orphans. It is He who lifts up the lowly from the dung heap. It is He who establishes right relationships in the order of creation: between God to humankind, with God as creator and the human being as creature, between human beings and within the human being himself. It is original sin, which is, as we know, hubris, that causes one to undergo a three-fold alienation from God, others and himself. It is the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets that leads to the three-fold reconciliation. The Protestant theologian Jose Miguel Bonino expresses it thus:
God acts in righteousness when he establishes and re-establishes right relationships, restoring those who have been wronged in their legitimate claims as members of the covenant. Such action is the equivalent of ‘salvation.’

When God liberates Israel, when he protects the unprotected, when he delivers the captive or vindicates the right of the poor, he is exhibiting his justice. The Beatitudes demonstrate concretely how the world should be. In our weakness, we are made strong in Christ Jesus Himself. Trust in this saving fact.