Sixth Sunday in ordinary time: Trust we build on
Today’s readings: Jeremiah 17, 5-8; 1 Corinthians 15, 12.16-20; Luke 6, 17.20-26.
How can people be happy when they are hated, abused or when they are weeping, poor or hungry? This is a very punching provocation from today’s gospel text that calls for serious reflection and re-examination on our part as to where we stand with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The text is that of the Beatitudes from St Luke, a different version from that we find in St Matthew. It is the text about living authentically. Coming from Luke, it is more in line with the prophetic teaching of the Old Testament echoed in today’s first reading from Jeremiah.
Jeremiah speaks of ‘curses’ and ‘blessings’ not as if God sends them but as inherent to the choices we make in life. Facing life as it comes across, we need to put our roots where they can reach out to running water. The alternative would be to content ourselves with settling down for false securities that even religion can provide.
God’s word offers guidance for our well-being and wisdom to avoid unwarranted consequences of short-sighted choices we often make. A major question posed to us today by these Scripture readings is about where and in whom or in what are we putting our trust. Trust is a most important virtue in life. Gaining or losing trust is a big enterprise in daily experience because our security and serenity ultimately rests on where and on whom we put our trust.
The prophet Jeremiah puts trust at the centre of our existence and highlights the difference between putting one’s trust in transient things or in the Lord of life. This is radicality at its best. This is not about being spiritual or about the need to go to church or to pray to the God one believes in. This amounts basically to what makes life ‘whole’ and what makes it ‘fragmentary’.
This points also to what St Paul says in the second reading about how Christ’s resurrection connects with our daily living. We cannot understand fully the meaning of Christ being raised from the dead unless we experience its implications in the way we face moments of dying while living. Christ’s resurrection becomes our resurrection not simply in the afterlife but already in the here and now of our earthly life when we are empowered not to fall prey to whatever is alluring.
Jesus speaks of the happiness of the poor, of the hungry and of those who weep now not in a sort of advocacy for whatever makes life miserable. The happiness Jesus refers to is the sense of true joy and fulfilment that comes from internal freedom from earthly dependencies. This is ultimately the happiness which is the condition for authentic living.
On a very similar wavelength, Jeremiah’s words are penetrating when he compares putting one’s trust in the Lord to a tree thrusting its roots to the stream. “When the heat comes it feels no alarm and it has no worries in a year of drought.” In the choices we make, we need to be wise enough to think of the “year of drought”, of tunnel moments in life when darkness reigns and when we need to be most resourceful.
The imagery of the “tree by the waterside” lends itself so clearly to what living in Beatitude is like. It is not richness or poverty in themselves that make us happy or miserable. The sense of our living is never bound to things outside ourselves which we can have or not have. All that we can possess in our lifetime is always conditioned and changes with time.
The security we need is one that has to be deeply rooted. Otherwise the ground on which we stand will resemble more and more the shifting sands under our very feet. In our journey of faith, there is a process of growth and maturity that keeps pointing towards the waterside and away from the wasteland. In this journey, we need to beware from easily settling down to what at the end of the day may be misleading in our deep search for God.