Jeremiah 17:5-8; Response: Psalm 1:1-2, 3-4, 6; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Gospel: Luke 6:17, 20-26
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is true that everything we have comes from God. He has provided for us in the past, He will provide for us today, and He will provide for us in the future. Nothing can happen that will change that. When we have this level of trust in God, we can face anything with confidence. We know that God is in charge and that He will see us through whatever challenges we may face. However, if we do not trust God, everything will seem overwhelming to us. We will start to panic and make rash decisions. We will hold on to what little we have rather than be generous with it.
It is precisely when we are under stress that we realize what level of trust we have in God. What gives us hope when we look to the future? Is it God and His love for us or is it the balance in our checking account? Is our hope for the years to come based on God’s goodness or in the strength of the economy? Does our sense of security come from God who never changes or in the government? Or, as the prophet Jeremiah would put it in today’s first reading, is our trust in human beings or in God?
Jeremiah tells us very clearly what people whose hope is only in the things of this world are like. They are like a barren bush in the desert that stays dry, brown, and dead. It can never grow or flower because it is rooted in land that is rocky, salty, and empty. That is what happens to us when our only hope is in the economy, in politics, or in people. We will be let down and
disappointed. Everything will be bitter to us. Nothing will live up to our expectations. We will always be complaining because nothing is good enough.
However, Jeremiah holds out a promise for those whose trust is in God. They will be like a tree planted beside a river, that is constantly irrigated and refreshed. No matter how hot or dry it is, it will always have plenty of nourishment. Even in times of drought, it flowers and bears fruit. When we trust in God, we have joy both in good times and in bad times. Nothing makes us afraid because we have our eyes fixed on God who promises to provide for us. People who trust in God look to the future with hope because all things are possible for our Heavenly Father. The whole world and its future are in His loving hands. People who trust in God are free to be charitable and generous. Like the businessman who pledged a quarter of a million dollars in a bad economy, they can give freely because they know that God will continue to provide for them.
What kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be fearful, miserable, and despairing? Or do you want to be hopeful, joyful, and generous? The secret is simply to look to God and His love for security and hope. He can never let us down.
Putting our trust in God is also the key to understanding today’s gospel.
Those who trust in God do not look to wealth for their identity. They can flourish even in poverty because their hope is in the Kingdom of God. They also do not look to food and drink to comfort them when things are difficult. Instead, they look to God for consolation and so can be joyful even in hunger. Those who trust in God are not indifferent to the suffering of others. They feel sadness at a society that puts the unborn to death, that considers the sick and elderly as disposable, and that closes its borders to those who are fleeing corruption and violence. Even as they mourn over a world that has lost its way, they look to God to give them hope and comfort. Finally, people who trust in God do not care what other people think of them. They stay true to their beliefs and principles even in the face of violent persecution. It is just such people whom God will bless.
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul tells us, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” Christians have a vision of life that transcends this world. Our homeland is in heaven. That is where our hope lies. Even while we work to make this world a place transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, we keep our eyes fixed on the world to come. Trusting in God does not mean that bad things will not happen to us. Christians experience poverty, hunger, sadness, and persecution as much, if not more, than anyone else. The difference is that we can be joyful in it all because of our hope in God. Our world is in desperate need of hope and it can only come from God. If we live generously, caring deeply about others, and sacrificing ourselves to meet the hunger of those around us, we will bring others to the God who is the reason for our hope and the source of our blessings.