The readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time focus on the source of the energy that drives us. That source is either God or our unredeemed nature coupled with the Evil One.
Both Jeremiah and Jesus focus on the contrasting results flowing from the energy source we choose.
Jeremiah begins: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in the flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” If we put our trust in human beings, we are “like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season…”
On the other hand, one who trusts in the Lord is like a bush that is planted next to a running stream and draws water from deep inside the earth. This bush produces leaves and fruit. The person who draws his/her strength from the Lord never runs out of energy to do good.
In the Gospel, Jesus faces crowds that have come as far south as Jerusalem, and from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. Even though His teachings are paradoxical, the weary hearts of His listeners readily grasp them.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.” I think that His audience immediately intuits that these terms of physical hunger and material poverty are metaphors for the deeper spiritual hungers for the infinite that everyone experiences.
He follows up by saying: “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.” He then presents the obverse: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.”
Jesus offers a profound education. What our senses enjoy today will pass away tomorrow. Today’s pleasures are fleeting and end with this life. However, when we act out of the goodness of our heart and make sacrifices for others, we experience deep in our heart a sense of peace and joy. That sense of peace and joy won’t cease with death, but will be fully revealed to us in the Resurrection.
Jeremiah and Jesus focus on the joys that nurture our hearts and will last forever. These are contrasted with the passing pleasure of our senses.
This mystery is illustrated in the lives of some young men and women with whom I have spoken and others who have similar feelings. They are confused and depressed. They have just awakened to a world of pleasure and the forces of an anger that they don’t understand. They begin to think that they are losing their faith. God is so far from them, they mistakenly think, and so they try to fix things on their own. When they have tried to avoid sin, it hasn’t worked. They feel powerless and desperate and on the verge of despair.
I tell them that if they take their case to God, they will find that He yearns to come into hearts that are hungering for Him. God is looking for outposts of His love on this earth. They will bring great joy to God if they but bring their case to Him.
Why should they condemn themselves for sins when God waits for recipients of His mercy? He has far greater mercy than they have sins. Sin has never been a problem when sinners come for mercy.
So often they believe lies that come either from their unredeemed inside or from the Evil One. They believe the lie that God doesn’t love them and that He doesn’t care about them, never mind that He has sacrificed His Son on Calvary for their salvation. They sometimes believe that God doesn’t love them at all. The real truth is that Christ simply wants to participate in their life and enable them to live up to their own expectations as well as to God’s expectations.
This often comes as a welcome revelation. They don’t have to save themselves. Jesus wants to do it with them and for them. Relax and invite Him into your daily experiences. Don’t try to pretend you are not a sinner, but know that sinners were the ones He sought out as He walked the hills of Palestine. I tell them that if they are a sinner, they qualify for Jesus’ friendship. As sinners we all need the friendship of Jesus to help us overcome sin.
Sin is not the greatest issue. A genuine relationship with Jesus is the real issue. If they turn to Jesus and ask for His help in their helplessness, they will discover the joy of their lives.
Beneath the teachings of Jeremiah and Jesus is the realization that without God we are lost in this life and the next. If God is to be the source of our energy in this life, then we need to spend time with Him daily in prayer, nurturing His friendship. We go to work every day in order to earn income to buy our daily food. We need to go to God in prayer every day in order that we might have the spiritual income to nurture our relationship with God.
The world is filled with hate and rejection. Why not chose a relationship with a good God that energizes us, makes us courageous witnesses and fills our lives with meaning. With a deep daily prayer life, we can live a life of peace and joy, with an open ended future with our God.