6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading — Jeremiah 17: 5-8

Jeremiah has prophesied doom for those who trust in human ways rather than in divine will.  Some scholars suggest that this message was delivered during the 1st Babylonian invasion of Judah about 597 BC.  Jeremiah might have been confronting King Zedekiah.  This weak, puppet leader had ignored the prophet’s advice and made an alliance with Egypt against the Babylonians.  Jeremiah tried to convince Zedekiah to forego all other alliances except their alliance with God.  When his advice was ignored, Jeremiah used the image of the barren bush in the desert to portray the folly and futility of trusting in human allies.  In the end, Jerusalem was destroyed and the king was put to death.  Jeremiah lived among the ruins until forced into exile.  It was only after his death that Jeremiah’s work bore fruit.  His messages were scattered about like the captives in exile.  Shortly after their return to rebuild Jerusalem, these messages began to be put together.  (Celebration, Feb. 1998)

What do you think of Jeremiah’s caution that “cursed is anyone who trusts in human beings”? Is this just an outrageous statement that we can ignore or decide is outdated? Or – could it be that our sane, human ways of thinking may not always be God’s way?  We often try to enlist God in the respectable ranks of human nature, the best, highest, and brightest of us. But God is not us. God is utterly beyond our words and concepts. Jeremiah certainly knew this in his own life and sufferings. As we’ll see in the gospel, even Jesus, who is God with us, has a view of human affairs thoroughly at odds with our own. Perhaps there is a higher wisdom that confounds all our categories. Paul in the next reading tries to give us hope and strength beyond our own flesh and wisdom. For Paul the new life of resurrection is the one indication of the unsearchable and incomprehensible ways of God. Here is the mystery of God’s creative love that saves us and can bring life out of death. God-in-Christ transforms all nature and earth. His message is that there is more than our humanity – otherwise the gospel we hear makes no sense. As we conform our lives to Christ, the mighty work of God becomes present in and with us.  (John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu/6OrdC021410/theword_engaged.html )

2nd Reading — I Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20 

Paul vehemently claims that Jesus is more than just a ‘wisdom teacher’.  Jesus rescues us from death, “the last enemy to be overcome”.  The resurrection is not a fable; Paul insisted that it is a real historical event. It is not an illusion; it assures us that we are not living lives headed into nothingness or despair. That nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus – not hardships, persecutions or even death itself.  (Celebration, Feb. 11, 2007)

Reginald Fuller says this: Our hope in resurrection is not a philosophical opinion but an inference from present Christian experience. We are forgiven sinners. We have been brought into a new relationship with God through Christ, a relationship that, if it is real, must issue in an ultimate consummation beyond this present existence. Because God has shown us – revealed – given us his forgiving love in Christ nothing, not even death itself, can deprive us of that new life.  (http://liturgy.slu.edu./6OrdC021410/theword_indepth.html )

The Gospel – Luke 6: 17, 20-26

“The Sermon on the Plain” — Compare with Matthew 5, “The Sermon on the Mount”

Just before this in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man with a paralyzed hand on the Sabbath and chooses the Twelve.  Jesus LIVES what he teaches.

Mary in the beginning of Luke’s gospel (1:51-53) sing of God’s wisdom and goodness by claiming that “the hungry he has filled with good things, while the rich he has sent away empty.” Here in this gospel section, Jesus is furthering this major theme of Luke’s gospel: God’s ways are filled with surprise and reversals. God’s wisdom reverses, even subverts, human wisdom and expectations.  Hardship, mourning, even persecution are no longer signs of God’s absence, but a way for God to break into our very lives. (Celebration, 2/98)

Remember when we read ‘rich’ in Luke, it really means ‘greedy’. In antiquity, a person became rich because that individual had power to take wealth from those who were weaker and unable to defend themselves. In this ancient world power was the means for acquiring wealth. To be poor was to be powerless. Culturally, a more appropriate translation of “rich” and “poor” in the Bible, therefore, would be “greedy” and “socially unfortunate.” In the Beatitudes, Jesus promises a reward from God for those who suffer these shameful experiences. The vast majority of people in the ancient world were poor — a condition brought about by greedy folk not by economic problems or laziness or bad luck. Jesus reminds us that God is the ultimate arbiter of what is true honor. God-given honor is the only honor that counts . . .       (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

From John Foley, S.J.:  We need to be open and empty in order to let God and others come in. If we want to love and be loved we need to have a space at the center of who we are. Jesus’ principle seems to run like this: you are blessed if you don’t cram yourself full . . . blessed are you if you stay empty, if you become a spacious home for God, for other human beings, for the long-suffering earth. We are built to be quiet receivers, people who know they are empty and yet patient. There is only one Being who can satisfy our deep capacity for love – only One who can feed us with the bread of life . . . blessed are you if you let go into his arms . . . (http://liturgy.slu.edu./6OrdC021410/reflections_foley.html )

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One response

  1. Thanks so much, as always. You give us such good and varied voices that help us see more deeply into these meanings…… I especially appreciated the Luke’s “rich” meant “greedy”… it isn’t SO FAR from the truth these days either, when we look around – and within.
    You help us keep finding the love……. Oh and Happy Valentines Day!

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