17Feb 17 February. 6th Sunday (C)

Jeremiah tells us whom we can really trust. Even leaders can lead us astray. Our primary trust is in the Lord, who guides our lives.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-8

Trust in human resources is like a withering shrub in the arid desert

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. ”

Responsorial: Psalm 1:1-4

Response: Happy are they who hope in the Lord

Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night. (R./)

He is like a tree that is planted
beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaves shall never fade;
and all that he does shall prosper. (R./)

Not so are the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff
shall be driven away by the wind.
For the Lord guards the way of the just
but the way of the wicked leads to doom. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20

Paul clear reply to some who were sceptical about resurrection

If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Gospel: Luke 6:17, 20-26

Luke has just four Beatitudes, and four corresponding ‘woes’

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.


Our way to the Promised Land

The land of Israel in ancient times was a place of two extremes. Much of its southern half was wilderness, where few living things could survive. This contrasted with the fertility of Galilee in the north, with its thriving population. Their knowledge of the two extremes in nature must have coloured their thinking about contrasting responses to God’s call.

This is urged in Moses’ final words: “Today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you are faithful to the Lord, he will bless you; but if you refuse to listen, if your heart strays, you will most certainly perish. I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life,” he urges, “that you may live in the love of the Lord, your God.”

This concept of The Two Ways – one good, one evil – deeply influenced the early Church. It appears in the gospel today, with its beatitudes and woes, and in the first reading from Jeremiah, where the result of our choices are linked to the extremes of nature found in Israel. A curse on those who trust only in human resources – they will be like the dry scrub in the parched southern wilderness. But a blessing on those who trust in the Lord. Like the tree planted near water, they will never cease to bear fruit.

The first Psalm offers the same idea of the “two ways,” almost word for word (today’s Responsorial). Note how today’s Gospel is addressed, not to the crowds, but to the disciples – “Then, fixing his eyes on the disciples, he said,” – implying that the sermon is meant for those who have already decided to follow him. Jesus warns them not to allow themselves be harnessed to the things of the world.

The prophets warn about social justice and sharing: “Woe to those who add house to house, and join field to field, until everything belongs to them” – in other words, woe to the speculators and those who seek a monopoly of the world’s resources. “Woe to those who from early morning chase after strong drink, and stay up late at night inflamed with wine” – that is those who are pleasure seekers. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who substitute darkness for light” – that is those who subvert morality and seek to lead others astray. “Woe to those who for a bribe acquit the guilty and cheat the good man of his due” – that is those who lack all sense of justice and honesty in dealing with others. Human nature does not change. All these are just as relevant today as when the prophets first proclaimed them (Is 5:8-23).

Then there are people with no lofty aspirations, the poor and destitute, those burdened with sorrows, those persecuted for trying to pursue the ideals of Christ – the only refuge for all these is to place their trust in divine providence; and Jesus says, happy are these people when they do so, because their confidence will be surely rewarded by God. Here Christ has turned upside down accepted worldly standards. If you set out with all your energy to acquire the things which the world regards as valuable, you will in all probability get them. But that will be your sole reward, he says. Whereas, if you set out to be loyal to God and true to the message of Christ, you may be mocked and insulted by the world, but your reward is still to come. And that reward will be joy eternal, and nobody will take it from you.

Seeking happiness

How often we hear optimistic news about the progressive recovery of the economy. They tell us that we are now witnessing economic growth, but growth of what? Growth for whom? They are hardly telling the whole truth of what’s happening.

Economic growth in the developed world often masks the gulf between those who can better their standard of living more and more and those who are going to stay cut off, without work or future in this macro-economic system.

We must be uneasy at how the provocative consumerism of those whom the system favours clashes with the misery and insecurity of so many. Let’s not forget the economic, financial and social mechanisms denounced by John Paul II which “function almost automatically, making more rigid the situations of wealth for some and of poverty for others.”

We cannot settle for a society that is profoundly unequal and unjust. In his clear and Gospel-based  encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, John Paul II called this situation clearly sinful.

We can offer all kinds of technical explanations, but when the final result is in, it’s the always greater enrichment of those who are already rich and the collapse of the poorest. We see easily why even today there are many who follow Nietzsche and think that Jesus’ attitude is the fruit of resentment and the powerlessness of those who can’t attain justice any more and who seek God’s vengeance.

Jesus’ message isn’t born out of the powerlessness of cast-aside and resentful people, but out of his intense vision of God’s justice that can’t allow the final triumph of injustice. It’s been twenty centuries, but Jesus’ word keeps being decisive for the rich and for the poor. Word of denouncing for some and of promise for others, it’s alive and well and challenges us all.  [José Antonio Pagola]

The Beatitudes today

(1) In the Beatitudes Jesus is not expressing a pious wish for something entirely unreal and outside of history. As they are presented in St Luke’s version, they are, to say the least, controversial. They are a challenge thrown down to us, because so much of what we see contradicts these statements. People who are poor and hungry, people who are weeping are not happy. What Jesus says is that if they really understand the situation they are in before God, they will be glad. Wealth and a full stomach are not a recipe for misery. But Jesus warns those who are comfortable that if they really understood their situation they would not be so happy. The things that are most important are not being poor or rich, being hungry or well-fed. This is a truth that most people accept in a notional way, or as a pious wish. Jesus invites us to begin to base or behaviour on it.

(2) People often feel morally guilty about their use of bad language. They may feel obliged to confess that they have been “cursing.” Yet in today’s first reading we hear: “a curse on the man who…” This “curse “is really intended as a warning. It is not intended as a prayer that really wishes ill to anyone in particular. What is forbidden most of all by the command not to “curse” is wishing or still worse praying for ill against a particular person – and so committing such an ill against them in your heart. The “woes” here are not curses, but an expression full of the regret, pity and sorrow that Jesus showed when he wept over Jerusalem. Bad language sometimes conveys an element of real wishing for another’s ill. More often it may offend against the spirit of the Beatitudes by dishonouring or humanity, by taking from the dignity and respect that is due to other people, and indeed to ourselves.

(3) St Luke has taken some pains to emphasise that Jesus’ words are addressed to the poor, the hungry, the suffering now. There are plenty of people in the world who are poor, hungry, and suffering now. Perhaps we are among them? If so the Beatitudes are addressed especially to us. It may still take a mighty movement of faith for us to see that the kingdom of God really does transform our situation. If there is little faith in our lives before suffering touches us, we will find faith hard to summon up when the day comes.

(4) If we cannot honestly count ourselves among the poor, the hungry, and the suffering, we can do more than just take to heart the warnings that follow. We can remember that the beatitudes here are especially addressed to the poor and hungry. We can take up the invitation to do something about the situation of the poor and hungry. We can recall that we, the comfortable people with resources at our command that are denied to others, are called to be the instruments of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that is one of justice, love and peace. For justice, love and peace, there is a price to pay.

Beatitudes: Roots that go deep

In today’s passage from Jeremiah, note the active roots that stretch to the stream. What are we striving for? He also mentions the heat and drought which inevitably comes. Life is like that. Ups and downs. Challenges. Crisis. Tragedy. Nevertheless, if one is plugged into God, the source of love, mercy, and goodness, one will still bear fruit and green leaves. If our aims are elsewhere, we are going nowhere. Even in a desert place we can still turn back and trust that God, for whom nothing is impossible. There can still spring up a river of life,  by his grace.

The homily could start from the letter of Paul to the Corinthians. It would remind the faithful of our beliefs in the afterlife .. of a life united with God. Is this something we ever think of? When have we last recalled our own mortality? When have we pondered about heaven? Do we truly believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? Do we believe that we too have a future? Perhaps it is time in your faith community to ponder these questions to simply keep the minds of the faithful heavenward.

Another theme: Dependence is Not a Sign of Weakness. This is well rooted in salvation history. When mankind walks humbly, takes care of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the alien, and is utterly dependent upon God then true happiness and peace ensues. When mankind gets prosperous, fat, lazy, self-seeking, independent, and disregards the marginalized then trouble ensues. True happiness is nowhere to be found. The grace of God is scarce.

The Beatitudes list the kind of people who are called Blessed. It is by no accident that these individuals are all utterly dependent upon God due to their circumstances – the poor, the hungry, the sad, the despised. They are the faithful, they are prayerful people. They are like trees who can weather the drought by stretching their roots to the underground water. They are dependent upon God and feel serene. On the contrary are those to whom Jesus says WOE. They have a false sense of security. They are well-off, socially popular and in need of nothing. It is difficult – but not impossible – to hold on to a sense of utter dependence upon God in these situations. Dependence upon God is not a sign of weakness; rather it keeps one in contact with a never-ending source of strength.

Na Biáide: is doimhin iad mar préamhacha

Is méanar dóibh siúd ar a ngairtear Biáide nó beannaithe. Ní de bharr taisme a tharlaíonn sé amhladh mar go bhfuil seasamh na ndaoine úd ar Dhia toisc go bhfuilid beo bocht, ocrach, in ísle brí, go ndéantar beag is fiú díobhtha. Is dream dílis deabóideach iad agus cumas iontu a bhpréabhacha a shá go doimhin sa talamh ar thóir uisce in aimsear na triomaíochta. Táid ag braith ar an Tiarna ach is méanar dóibh. Ní hamhlaidh dóibh siúd a thug an Tiarna rabhadh dóibh.Tá breall orthu in a gcuid sástachta. Táid go maith as sa saol, faoi mheas i measc a gcairde agus gan easnamh d’aon tsaghas orthu. Is deacair, ach ag an am gcéanna indéanta, dá leithéid e dhaoine bheith ar aon aigne leis an Tiarna. Ní comhartha laige do sheasamh a bheith agat ar an Tiarna; go deimhin féin is nasc iontach le an neart gan teorainn, an Tiarna Dia.


The Seven Founders of the Servite Order

The mendicant Servite Order was founded in 1233, by a group of cloth merchants who left behind their city (Florence), their families and professions to retire to Monte Senario for a life of poverty and penance.

Saint Fintan, abbot

Fintan of Clonenagh was a 6th-century Irish monk, regarded as one of three patron saints of county Laois. He succeeded his teacher, St Columba of Terryglass, as abbot of the monastery at Clonenagh around 548. Fintan was deeply influenced by the penitential practices of Abbot Columba and the austerity of his Rule. He died around 603.

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