You might say “here he goes again” when I talk about the behavior of the Chosen People in the times of Zephaniah the Prophet; You might say “here he goes again” when I talk about the behavior of the
people that make up the Church at Corinth; And you might say “at last he is talking about how good things can be” when I quote Matthew as he begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes.
In truth, Zephaniah, St. Paul and Jesus are all trying to shake the people out of their comfort zones when it comes to 1) worshipping God; 2) Conversion to Christ; and 3) turning the world upside down with the Beatitudes. Zephaniah is about 600+ years before the birth of Christ, and just like last
week in the Prophet Isaiah, there is talk about the same old story: foreign powers overrunning the people (today the Babylonians instead of the Assyrians) the unfaithful, the exile, repentance, and salvation by a compassionate God.
This time, in Zephaniah, not all are saved. Zephaniah introduces us to one of the most beautiful concepts in the entire Bible: “The Remnant.” Those who are faithful are the only ones who are left, unharmed by the events of the times. A lot of pressure is placed upon them. The Remnant are those who will keep the positive stories alive, because in those positive and delightful stories of God they just might bring others out of their own exile.
St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians is more difficult to understand when it comes to fitting between the Remnant and the Beatitudes. It lists a theme that he no doubt picked up from the sayings of Jesus, when Jesus gave that famous list we just read, of who would be blessed in this world.
In St. Paul, God chooses those whom the world considers foolish and unwise, not powerful, those who are lowly and not of noble birth, the weak, the lowly, and despised, who count for nothing. However Paul sees in these people the qualities of those who are able to listen. What have they got to lose? They are already considered outcasts – their own Israelite brothers and sisters consider
them as if they were already in some kind of exile and not welcome in the midst of society.
Paul says: Due to the calling of God “you are in Christ Jesus…” who became for us: wisdom from God… righteous, sanctified and redeemed. In a world that sees and then preys on the weak, Paul and the Lord Jesus see those who can follow the instructions for a new mission: seek the kingdom and tell others. Where would we be if there were not a remnant, if Zephaniah’s voice would have fallen on those who didn’t care, who felt that it was easier to go into exile than fight it; if the people walked away from Paul because they thought conversion to Christ was more difficult than keeping things the way they were; Where would we be if Jesus had never risked everything he was trying to do and call to us from the mountain top; if we had never risked to listen?
Things would be quite different:**
- Blessed are the proud and self-sufficient who believe they are the center of the earth, for theirs are only the kingdoms of this world.
- Blessed are the content and those who fail to see the suffering of others, for they shall know not they are ignorant.
- Blessed are the arrogant, and the harsh in attitude, for they believe they can control the happiness of the less fortunate.
- Blessed are they who gather expensive things undeservedly and flaunt them in the face of others, for they shall be filled with feelings of superiority.
- Blessed are the bullies, the unforgiving, and those who force grievance, for they shall cause destruction and keep score.
- Blessed are the perverted, the adulterers, and the lustful, for they shall be esteemed by Satan for growing his kingdom.
- Blessed are the warmongers, the agitators and the vengeful, for they shall never know peace.
- Blessed are they who do evil but fail to get caught, for they shall be considered heroes.
- Blessed are the liars, the gossipers, and those who make fun of others to cause them harm and embarrassment, for they shall have confidence and place themselves ahead of others.