In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah, we hear those words , "seek justice, seek humility." Zephaniah was sent to the people of the Kingdom of Judah around the time of the Fall of Jerusalem. The Kingdom of Judah, even though it had the temple and the Davidic Kingdom, has long forgotten the Law of Moses in which they were to worship God alone and in which they
were summoned to care for the widow and orphan. They had grown corrupt in their wealth and power, and were primed for the day of wrath that would befall Jerusalem. But God does not withdraw His hand without giving a way to return to Him and be so spared. That road of return was to be just and to be humble.
Justice gets a bad name anymore. Some think justice is about the allotment of punishment, an orderly form of vengeance. Some think justice is about protesting what other people do, decrying corporate sin. But justice, which is one of the four cardinal virtues, is about giving to another what they need. Justice requires a person to look beyond themselves and open their eyes and actions to the needs of those around them. True justice requires a selflessness of soul. Had the People of Judah been just, they never would have worshiped any God but the Lord nor would they have ignored the needs of the poor.
Humility is the ability to live in the truth. It is to know the correct and right relationship towards God. It is to know who we are, who are not, and who we are before God. Humility gives us wisdom to act rightly and selflessly. It reorients us to right relationship with God and with our neighbor. Without these two characteristics that Zephaniah calls for, the people of Judah will remain in the delusion and their sin and so be fit for destruction.
In the Gospel, we have the Beatitudes of St Matthew. At the core of each beatitude is this same humility and justice. Each beatitude calls for us who follow Christ to act in the person of the Christ. Being poor in spirit is being humble. It is an acknowledgment of our need for God. The meek are not the weak, but the strong who can hold back their hand in vengeance and give to others the mercy they need, even if they do not deserve it. The mourning are not the bitter and sad, but those who are moved to pray for those caught in sin and see the consequences of their own sin as well. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness recognize in humility that our consolation is not found here and now, that trinkets cannot take the place of the Kingdom of God. In each of these Beatitudes we see a call for selflessness that is courageous, enduring, and strong.
This week we celebrate Catholic School's week. The major purpose of a Catholic School is to form young men and women who will be the kind of person just described. We are to work with you parents in raising up not merely scholars but disciples who will become the faith filled and selfless leaders of their families, their parishes, and society as a whole. It is a partnership with a singular goal. Both of us need to be teaching that humility that leads us to understand that we need God...we need the sacraments. There is no greater conceit for a Catholic than to believe falsely that we do not need the sacraments. Both of us need to be teaching that at the core of our Catholic identity is that selflessness that leads us to personally involve ourselves in not merely talking about the needs of others, but addressing the needs of others. We cannot do either of these in isolation from the grace of God given through the sacramental life of the Church.
While we teach math, science, language, and history...all important and necessary skills to be sure...it is in teaching them what it means to be a follower of Christ...what it means to live a life of Beatitude...that is our true purpose. We are not a private school with some statuary. We are a CATHOLIC school that passes on the teachings of Christ and His Church. If humility and justice is what God wants...that is what we teach...both in our schools and in our homes. If it mercy and courage that God demands...then that is what we teach to those God has placed in our care...both in the school and in the home. Truth be told, whether your child is in the public schools, our parochial school or is home schooled the essential message is identical and we all share in that same mission of training young men and women who will walk humbly and justly before the Lord.
Let us ask God for this grace, then, to walk in truth, to seek truth, and to adjust our lives to the truth...so that we may be fitting witnesses to the power of God and teach our youth to do the same. Let us model what it means to seek justice and to seek humility. so that we might raise youth who seek justice, who seek humility, who seek the Lord!