19 Feb Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 17, 2019
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
Tough Scriptures today
Today’s Scriptures each ask us: Where do you put your faith? That’s the spiritual question posed by today’s readings…In whom do you trust? Ultimately, where do you place your trust ?
Listen now to the prophet Jeremiah from our first reading: “Cursed be the one who trusts in human beings; who seeks his strength in flesh; whose heart turns away from the Lord. And conversely “blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord.”
Much hinges now on the meaning of that little word trust. To trust, to have hope, to turn one’s heart to God, means to root the whole of your life, to ground, to centre all your concerns in God.
To trust and turn one’s heart to human beings means to root all of one’s life,…to ground and centre one’s concerns in the world: in wealth, in fame, in honour, in power, in pleasure.
And this is what we refer to as ‘the great either /or.’
Jeremiah states it so simply. He’s asking: what is the centre of gravity of your life? What is your ultimate concern? We all have a lot of concerns: about money and family and success… About jobs, health, but, amidst all those concerns…at the core of our being, what is the ultimate centre of gravity for our life. In what have I placed my trust? Where have I put my faith? And the Scriptures here are asking us to answer the question: which is it? Either God or human beings. Either God or the world.
Elsewhere in the gospels Jesus tells his followers either you are with me or you are against me. And they respond: “Oh no Lord I think you are great but I’m not ready totally to commit myself” …then, you are against me. “Lord I am willing to follow you but first let me bury my father…” You are against me.
Lord I want to be your disciple but first I have to settle things back home. You are against me. Finally… you have to choose. It’s one or the other.
The spiritual power of this reading from Jeremiah is it forces the question…where do I place my trust…and many of us would like to avoid this question. We think…I’m Ok with God…I go to Mass every week, I say my prayers, I’m doing OK. But where is the centre of my faith…really? Where is my trust? What do I rely on?
Now the Gospel today is Luke’s version of the beatitudes.
Jesus lays out a series of four blessings, and a series of four woes. And we are one or the other. It forces us to see where we place our faith.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord. Woe to those who trust in the things of the world. It echoes the either/or of Jeremiah.
Listen to some of these blessings we hear in today’s gospel. First the Lord says: “Blessed are you who are poor.” Translate this, blessed are you if you do not root your life in material wealth. How blessed are you if you do not trust in material wealth. Now, there’s nothing wrong with material wealth and money in and of themselves. But when they become the source, the root, the foundation of our life …now we have substituted them for God. We have put our trust where we should not have put it.
A lot of people in our society put their faith in material things. Do you? How much time do you spend thinking about and worrying about the accumulation of things or in wealth? How painful is it for you when you lose money? How firmly do you cling to money? Do you find you are never satisfied with the amount of money you have? Do you find yourself comparing your wealth to that of others? What if we answered those questions very honestly…in the presence of God… that will tell you a lot about the role that money is playing in your life. Are you putting your faith in it? Jesus says today “Blessed are you if you don’t.”
Next we hear: Blessed are you who are now hungry. Translate this. Blessed are you if you do not root your life in sensual pleasure. Blessed are you if you do not put your faith in sensual pleasure. Again nothing wrong with sensual pleasure in and of itself. But, when you centre your life on them…when pleasure and its various varieties becomes the centre of gravity in your life, now you do indeed have a spiritual problem.
What are some of the signs? How much of your budget is given over to pleasure? How much of your time is spent in seeking out pleasure? You know what is a very instructive spiritual exercise…take an accounting at the end of a couple of months, and examine…what are you spending your money on? What are you investing in? How much of it is spent on pleasure? Where are large chunks of your time being spent.
Jesus goes on “Blessed are you who are now weeping.” How do you react when your life becomes painful: whether it is physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual pain? Do you shrink away from the things you know you should do because it will cost you? It will take away your pleasure. How much time and energy do you spend providing pleasure for others? The honest answer to these questions…answering them before God would show us how much faith we are putting in pleasure. How much trust we are placing there? The Lord is saying how blessed are you if you don’t…how blessed are you that you trust in God.
Then we hear blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, when they revile and insult you and defame you, on account of the Son of Man.
Translated…Blessed are you if you do not put your faith in the approval of others: in honour, glory and attention. This is a very powerful temptation for many of us. There are many of us who would willingly let go of wealth. Yes, even of pleasure. But who are addicted to approval. Wanting to be noticed, honoured, held up for esteem. Again nothing wrong with honour in itself. Nothing wrong with attention in itself. But when you trust in it, when you put your faith in it, when you make it the centre of gravity of your life. Now you do indeed have a serious spiritual problem.
What are the signs that perhaps you are trusting in this too much? How concerned are you with what other people think of you? Answer honestly before God. How much time do you spend worrying about the impression you’re making? How thoroughly does it bother you when you are passed over for an honour? …You think…boy I deserve that award… I deserve that recognition…How much does that bother you…when someone else gets it? How much does it bother you when someone else gets more attention than you do? Even in your circle of friends: suddenly someone else is more popular: someone is getting more attention. How much do you mourn when you’re not honoured, when you’re not noticed? The honest answer to those questions. To answer them in the presence of God can tell you how much faith you are putting in honour! …to what degree you are trusting in the approval of other people. The Lord is saying how blessed are you if you do not trust in these fleeting realities. Blessed are you when you are willing to stand in the truth and be reviled for it.
Now, what does your life look like when you put your faith in something other than God? Jeremiah couldn’t be clearer: That person is like a shrivelled up shrub in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in the parched places of the desert wilderness.
That one has planted his life in honour, planted his life in wealth, he’s planted his life in pleasure… Jeremiah tells us he is like a lifeless shrivelled up bush in the desert.
What’s it like to have faith in God?
This is what Jeremiah says to that…it is one of the most beautiful images in Scripture…the person who has faith in God is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the streams. It fears not when the heat comes. In the year of drought it shows no distress. Its leaves are green. It continuously bears fruit.”
Those who are rooted in God…their lives bear fruit. Even when life becomes unbearable. Even when you fail …you are rooted in that source of life that is God. That’s why putting your trust and your faith there is so vitally important spiritually.
Tough, tough, Scriptures today.
Whom do you trust?
Where do you put your faith?
That is the wonderful either/or question that is put to us today. God ? Or the world?