The Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Cycle C Scripture Readings: Jer 17: 5-8; 1Cor 15:12, 16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26]
We all have our preferred ways for making decisions or trying to make sense out the situations in which we find ourselves. Sometimes I find it helpful set up opposite extremes. Even though the real situation isn’t that way it puts the issues into sharper relief and can help me see more clearly the values that are involved in making a decision. It has the disadvantage of leaving me with the question, Where do I fit in? Seldom do actual situations divide neatly into either/or patterns. When I move away from the limit situations the alternatives become more ambiguous.
Where do I fit into the blessings and woes in this morning’s gospel? I am not living in luxury, but I am a long way from destitution. I don’t leave the dinner table stuffed, but neither am I in danger of being undernourished. Like most people I have my good days and my bad days. Even though I am not at the limits of the blessings and woes they still call me to look at my values and how I live. Is my first concern my own comfort and the satisfaction of my own desires? However I may try to rationalize that approach it amounts to looking to the flesh as the source of my happiness. Jeremiah is clear that the result will not be happiness, but desolation. The first step toward being blessed is to trust in God.
I don’t expect anyone here to disagree with that, but moving beyond saying the words and living according to them day by day is not so easy. Not only in this morning’s readings, but in a number of places the words of scripture turn my values and expectations upside down. I may not live in severe poverty, but living according to the gospel will mean finding contentment with less than I want and even with less than what I think I need. And this not only at a material level, but also at a psychological level. At times it may mean giving up practices and routines that have given me comfort at a spiritual level. As long as I insist on having my own way I will be the source of my woes.
A test of my trust in God is how I react to disappointment and misfortune. Do I become angry and resentful? Do I feel sorry for myself? Without denying the suffering I may experience can I look beyond the immediate situation and in hope believe that God will bring good from it? Do I agree with St. Paul that if my hope in Christ is only for this life then my faith is empty and my life a waste? Do I believe Jesus’ words about a future reward that comes from following in his way, or when push comes to shove in day to day life, have I become cynical with talk about happiness in heaven. Is it the blunt truth that I want my happiness now, according to my definition and in my own way?
No matter how much we might want to find a comfortable way around Jesus’ blessings and woes there isn’t one. We may not understand them. They may leave us more than a little apprehensive. I suspect that Jesus’ disciples had the same reaction. The blessings and woes stand as a call to conversion. May God grant us the trust to take the first hesitant steps.