Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20, Luke 6:17,20-26.
There was a story of a man who recently got wedded to his beloved wife in a far distant town, far away from his home. He must go through the river to the home of the beloved wife.
The man is well known as a mighty warrior but doesn’t joke with His prayers especially his rosary.
So, After the marriage, He was returning home with his wife and both of them were on a boat. On the way home, they encountered a mighty and disturbing storm. The woman became so afraid that they would sink inside the river but the man sat silently, reciting his rosary. The storm later became huge and was pushing the boat to sink it. Still, the man sat silently calm and quiet, praying his rosary.
The wife became so worried and deeply afraid. Out of fear, she shouted at the man “what do you say you are doing? We are dying and you are not doing anything, are you not afraid that our lives could end here?”
At this time, the man smiled and took his sword out of the sheat. He brought the naked sword close to the neck of the woman as if to slit her throat.
The woman could not understand what he was trying to do. The man then asked her “are you not afraid that I am going to slit your throat and throw you into the river?
The woman began to laugh and said to Him “it is impossible and you can’t do it. Will your heart allow you to? I am not afraid. For the fact the sword is in your hands, why should I be afraid? I know you love me and will not harm me”.
Then the man put the sword back and said to her. “The way you trust that I will not harm you is the way I trust that my God will not harm me”.
“The storm is in His hands and not in our hands, so, even if I shout from morning until night, even if I fear and shout like you, if we are going to die, we will die. Therefore, instead of doing that, I place my trust in the loving hands of God. So whatsoever is going to happen will come from Him. if He saves us good, if He allows us to perish, good too. Everything is in His hands. I place my trust in Him and not in my shouting and crying. What I do, does not matter. What matters is what God decides to do at this time. Therefore, crying and shouting is not the best thing to do now. They can not solve any prayer either”.
Today, the sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church invites us to place our trust in God. Jeremiah begins the first reading today by saying that anyone who relegates God but put His faith and trust in man is already cursed. But whoever puts his trust in God always will be blessed. Therefore, blessed is the man who put his trust in God.
The responsorial psalm of today also repeated that Blessed is the man who puts His trust in the Lord. According to the psalm, such a man is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters.
He yields its fruit in due season and out of season. His leaves shall never fade and in all that he does, he shall prosper. Therefore, to trust in God always is a secret of salvation, divine breakthrough and eternal life. Whoever does this wins the heart of God.
Whoever will read this now will always affirm his/her trust is in the Lord. But when we look critically we will see that most of the mistakes that we do as Christians are to put our trust in somebody.
Sometimes we become afraid of them more than we are afraid of God. Many times we sing the praises of people whom we expect to eat from their pockets more than we spend time singing praises to God.
Many Christians will go a long way to win the heart of someone but will never make a single effort to win the heart of God.
Sometimes also we trust in our power more than we put trust in God’s omnipotent power. The readings of today intimate that he who puts His trust in God even when it seems the boat is sinking will be saved. Such a person invites unlimited blessings from God.
In essence, to put trust in God becomes a secret of blessings from God. Therefore, trust God always. Trust God when life does not make sense. Also, trust God even when you do not understand Him. When everything is in His hands, we do not need to fear.
The Consequences of trusting only in Mortal Man.
These readings provide us with two ways of living; those who trust in mere mortals and those who trust in the Lord. Through his resurrection, Christ conquered death and strengthened our faith and hope of eternal life. Our faith then should have its stronghold in Jesus the giver of life.
Today’s readings then pronounce blessings on those who trust God and curses on those who do not.
The first reading from the book of Jeremiah succinctly reminds us of the consequences of trusting solely on our abilities, on our human strength and human beings.
The Lord says “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
Literally, to curse means to invoke evil, damnation, punishment, injury, disaster, backwardness and problems on someone. When someone lays curses on someone, it means he is inviting disaster and calamity upon the person.
In essence, to neglect God and trust only in human beings has grave consequences.
To understand the reason for this utterance from God in the first reading, we have to check the background of the reading.
I. The Background.
During the reign of Zedekiah, the people of Judah departed from the way of the Lord. They relegated God and lived the way they wanted.
Then when they are being threatened by another powerful nation or when any danger threatens them because of their sinful lives, they still seek succour from other idolatrous nations instead of seeking repentance and help from God.
Some of these foreign nations like Egypt, Assyria etc promised to deliver them from the Babylonians but couldn’t.
It didn’t stop them from going to exile. So, the point here is that despite that their hearts are away from God, they trusted in men to save them. This led to the punishment of Zedekiah and the ruin of Judah.
So, the first reading which begins with “curse is on the man” seems to be a direct reference to Zedekiah and the people in exile who refused to listen to God’s warnings but relied on the strength of Egypt to save them.
They were then deprived of their children, blinded, and imprisoned in Babylon. Isaiah re-echoed this when he was telling the Israelites to return to God and stop trusting in the arm and mighty strength of the Egyptians. Isaiah says
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord. But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, those who help will stumble, those who are helped will fall; all will perish together. (Isaiah 31:1-3).
Ii. The Points to Consider.
1. To trust in the Lord means more than believing in who He is and what He says. Trust means to rely upon “to have confidence in the ability of someone, to follow whatever someone says.
Therefore when we trust in someone we will always rely on whatever that person says and follow his advice to the core. Therefore, if we say we trust in God but do not follow His words, we make ourselves liars.
2. To trust in man or trust in our abilities more than we trust in God is already an approval that we trust what someone can do for us or what we can do more than we trust in what God can do.
And when we relegate God to put our trust in somewhere else, shows total neglect of God. God detests such an anti-faith attitude and frowns at it.
In many verses of the bible, Jesus praises the faith of the people (Matthew 8:10; 15:28; Luke 7:9). In essence, what gladdens the heart of God is our trust in Him always both in good and in bad times .
3. It is not a sin to trust people, but we have to understand here that it is a sin to trust and invest in people, the respect, honour, recognition, glory and power due to God.
It is sad to invest our deepest faith in man more than we put our faith in God. God detests that. Stop seeing any person as the most powerful when we cannot have a single time with God.
In essence, the other person then becomes our God.
So, Our faith, hope, honour, glory etc should go to God.
Therefore, God detests it when we put our faith in the other person. It is when we give that person the place in our hearts that rightfully belongs to God.
It is also when we invest our ultimate trust in an ideology or philosophical system or some get rich schemes. So many people put their trust in drugs to live other than God that gives life.
4. Many people trust in their wisdom, wealth, strength and resources, and forget the Source of these. The more gifted or wealthy we are, the more this is likely to be our temptation. It may lead us to pride and faithlessness.
The first reading used desert to describe those that put their faith in mortals.
The desert shrub is a metaphor for a person living under harsh circumstances. Deserts are usually hot and arid. Survival under such conditions is difficult.
Furthermore, desert shrubs are not very productive. Therefore, what God is saying today is that whoever puts his trust only in mortals are like the shrubs. They can never be productive. They may be disappointed and twisted around.
Trusting in man for blessings is the easiest way to disappointment. But blessed is the man who trusts the Lord. Blessed is the man who trusts in whatever God says. Blessed is the man who trusts that God is always with Him/her. We may expect help from men, so far as God enables them to help us, but we must rest our trust in God alone (Ps 62:5).
Where Do You Anchor Your Faith?
The second reading then emphasises on whom and where we should anchor our faith, which is in Christ Jesus. The epistle tells us that if Christ has not risen from the dead our hope is dead. Our faith is a joke. It is empty and meaningless.
“But,” writes St. Paul, “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1Cor 15: 20).
This message is the core of our Faith. Without it, Christianity is either the dumbest or most evil religion ever.
Jesus Christ is the foundation stone on where our faith lies. Among all great teachers and avatars that existed, Jesus is the only one among every founder of a religion that resurrected from the dead.
Therefore, our faith should be anchored on Him to raise us again. It is not only for the ephemeral world but also for eternity. Saint Paul says “If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people”.
Therefore, our life does not end here. It continues to eternity and the secret of salvation and eternal life is Jesus Christ. We have to anchor our trust in Him to save us now and from eternal damnation.
Then the question is where do you anchor your faith? In your power? It will disappoint you. In your wisdom? It will surely disappoint you or in your riches? Whatever we have in this life, a life without Jesus is worthless.
The Way to Divine Blessing and the Way to Punishment.
The Gospel today presents four blessings and four curses in Luke’s gospel. Some exegetes call this discourse the “discourse on the plain ” because, according to the gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus came down from the mountain and stopped in a place which was flat and there He pronounced His discourse.
In Matthew’s Gospel, this same discourse is given on the mountain (Mt 5:1) and is called “The Sermon on the Mount.”
In Matthew, in this discourse, there are eight Beatitudes, which trace a program of life for the Christian communities of Jewish origin.
Then in Luke, the sermon is shorter and more radical. It contains only four Beatitudes and four curses, directed to the Hellenistic communities, formed by rich and poor.
The Gospel pronounces blessings on four categories of people and their rewards. Jesus pronounces blessings on
1. The poor: Theirs is the kingdom of God. Matthew makes it explicit, that the blessing is not just for any poor fellow but the poor in Spirit. Here, God did not promise any poor man heaven. God does not support that we become lazy so that we will go to heaven.
Poor indicates lack. The poor in spirit are those who know and understand that they do not have it all. They constantly yearn for God.
They recognise their spiritual poverty and know that they need God always. Therefore, they are those who put their trust in God always, knowing very well that as human beings, they do not have it all. They are aware of their limitations and then hold on to God always.
2. Then the hungry: The hungry are those who have an intense desire to have a relationship with God. In them, there is this hunger for God and righteousness always.
They become uncomfortable when they sin against God. If as Christian we have not reached that extent when we sin we become uncomfortable, then we still have a long way to go. Blessed is the man who is undergoing problems now because of his or her love for God, such a person will never be forsaken.
3. Those who weep now and
4. The persecuted, abandoned, those excluded, reviled and insulted on account of the Son of Man. They are going to have their fill, laugh and rejoice for surely their reward is great in heaven.
They are those who are being insulted, laughed at, hated and persecuted because of their faith and closeness to God.
Though they are passing through problems now, what they are passing through now, is already a way to their victory. Therefore whatever you pass through due to your faith in God, is already a preparation for the crown of glory awaiting us.
The gospel is similar to the first reading where God pronounces blessings and curses on those who trust in Him and those who do not.
Here, Jesus pronounces blessings on those I mentioned above and curses on some categories of people. Jesus says
“But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry. Woe for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep. Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’
This is not also an indication that God hates rich people or detests wealth. Remember that Jesus also praises the rich man, the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. Nicodemus and Joseph Arimathaia were His closest friends and disciples and they were rich. He dined with Zacchaeus, who is also a rich man.
What Jesus detests is trusting in your wealth, and seeing it as your god that you assigned the place of God to wealth. It is also being so immersed in the pleasures and enjoyments of this world that we forget that we have God.
It is also when we use what we have either our positions, money or riches to intimidate people and suffer them instead of saving their lives. These types of people will enjoy now but what awaits them is eternal damnation.
Therefore, the easiest way to damnation, punishment and fall is to assume the position of God and assign God’s position, glory, respect, worship, etc to wealth or another person.
Blessed Is the Man.
Therefore, blessed is the man who always trusts in God. Blessed is the man who detests the way of evil but hunger for peace, righteousness and love.
He is blessed who trusts God even when life comes with great challenges to pull His faith down, yet he keeps faith in the lord. He is a blessing who trusts God even when life doesn’t make sense.
Blessed is the man who trusts in everything that God says and follows them from the heart. He is not worshipping God to be seen but worships God from the heart.
Blessed is the man who, though is rich but always humble Himself before God. He knows that His days are numbered and His only salvation is on God. He keeps God as His closest companion.
Blessed is the man who does not put His trust on riches, who knows that whatever He acquires in this world will still vanish one day. He knows that there is an end to every man, he keeps his close relationship with God intact.
Blessed is the man who uses what He has to save souls and acquire for HImself heavenly rewards. Blessed is the man who puts God first before everything else.
We are considered fortunate if we put our faith, hope and trust in God despite who we are. Blessed is the man who does not assume the place of God but gives Him His rightful position. We are blessed if we do these.
Cursed is the Man.
Cursed is the man who puts all his faith and trust in what He has that he neglects God totally and even considers himself as a god.
Also Cursed is the One who uses his position or thinks that because of who he is, he is now the god of earth and can do whatever He wills, their end is always disastrous.
Also, a curse is a person who uses his position to intimidate others and forget that He was once like them.
Cursed is the man who wants everyone to worship him as a god. He wants to acquire the whole earth, to the detriment of his soul. Sometimes He intimidates people and takes their properties by force. When you do not sing their praises you become their enemy.
Also, a curse is on the person who relegated God in His life and thinks money is everything. He may enjoy today, but life does not end here.
Cursed is the man who puts all his trust in Himself and abilities that He thinks that God cannot. Inside Himself, he thinks the mention of god is just one of those fairy tales. Life always takes them unawares.
Also, a curse is on the person who because of material gain and money engage in money rituals, kidnapping and any kind of killing. We invite curses when we neglect God and make ourselves gods even to the detriment of others.
Do we choose the way of blessing or curse?
1. Todays’ s liturgy invites us to reflect on two fundamental choices: blessings or curses, life or death. We choose the best when we put our trust in the Lord and live according to His ways.
We choose the best when we choose to obey His words in everything we do. He says in Matthew 7:24-25 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the torrents raged, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because its foundation was on the rock.”
In essence, in the midst of trouble, you choose peace because Jesus says we should live in peace. In the midst of hatred, you choose to love, because Jesus says we should love one another (John 15:12).
When the temptation of prayerlessness comes, you choose to pray instead because Jesus says that we shall pray always and not lose hearts. (Luke 18:1-8).
In the midst of fear and challenges, we chose to remain in faith because Jesus says that we should not be afraid (Matthew 14:27).
When we choose His words, we shall always remain in the way of blessings.
Imagine a world where everyone chooses to live in peace. Imagine a family where everyone decides to help each other. Such an environment will be heaven. So, we choose the best when we decide to live by His word. This is the message of the beatitudes.
2. Today, the world is immersed in the quest for power, riches, positions and vain glories. The rate of moral depravity increases every day. Today many people kill, abort and murder at will.
We have neglected God and are now immersed in lust for pleasure and riches; immersed in consumables and lost of faith in God. We say we trust God yet we prefer to spend time to enjoy our lives more than we spend time with the person we said we love.
We have chosen the way of the world and neglected God. Those in the position of power now feel they have arrived and think they will be there forever and ever. We have almost forgotten that we all have an expiring date. Where will our souls be at the end of our lives?
3. When you read the gospel, you may think that Jesus hates the rich. It is not that Jesus detests wealth but those who put all their faith and love for it forget Him who is the foundation of our life.
Then, For those who simply put their trust in Jesus. It is not that they will experience no adversity, No! But they are rooted in their relationship to God, a relationship that nurtures them through adversity and keeps them from despair.
Everything works for good for those who love God. It is not enough to simply turn away from something like sin; we must also turn towards God! Millions believe in God, they believe He exists, but they do not place their trust in God. Let us trust in God.
4. Today, the first reading and the gospel have a serious warning for those who seek pleasures, wealth and material gains at the expense of their salvation. Choosing to live like that is already choosing the way to eternal damnation.
Therefore, the readings have a serious warning for those who solely focus on their earthly pleasures instead of seeking the higher values that will also benefit their souls.
But today instead of choosing what will benefit our souls, we choose what leads to the death of our souls.
We are often carried away by the quest for material riches, envy, anger and hatred. Therefore, to be a candidate of God’s reward and salvation at the end, we have to love what he loves and reject what He rejects.
5. I will stop this reflection with my five ‘do not trust commandments”
- Do not place your trust in weapons; “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). “He who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword” (Revelation 13:9). We have to be careful.
- Do not place your trust in wealth or riches; Paul wrote: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). We must place our trust in God, not in money.
- Do not place your trust in yourself; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6).
- Do not place your trust in man or governments: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8,9). “Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3). Some people expect the government or some political system to solve their problems. Any form of government is bad if the people in charge are bad, and most politicians are not known for their goodness. The only resources the government has, come from God. Trust in God rather than in governments.
- Do not place your trust in the words of men. Blessed is the man who trusts God deeply. Man will always disappoint but God can never disappoint you. “Those who trust in the Lord Are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125:1). Do not place your trust in weapons, in riches, in yourself, in man, in governments or the lying words of a godless society. Put your trust in God.
God bless you and happy Sunday.