Both the 1st reading and the Gospel speak about quest for happiness, a human need which is legitimate. However, we can be mistaken in the manner we seek it. While Jeremiah warns against certain tendencies, Jesus traces the ways of happiness -the beatitudes. Where do you place yourself in your search for happiness? This word is for you and me!
Jeremiah 17: 5–8
Psalm 1: 1–4, 6
1 Corinthians 15: 12–20
Luke 6: 17, 20–26
When self-interest takes over generosity
When the desire to satisfy personal interests becomes the main conductor of our life we can be sure that everything around us, that is, persons, our relations and all that we do risk being transformed into mere instruments for our use. Not only that may lead to abuse, both of persons and things, but may risk also collapsing the values that serve as backbone of our life. Faith, and all ideals that go along with it, just lose their place. What counts is no longer what is right or just but what brings gain. But, at what price?
At first sight, it may look like a boom of success leaving even some people jealous. It means, there’s also a danger of misleading others. But how reliable and how durable is that success? It’s hard to evaluate if you are bathing in it, that’s why it’s important to take a distance in order to consider things a bit more profoundly. That’s the invitation of the word of God this Sunday. Look at what’s keeping you busy; is it really what will fulfil your heart’s desire? Jeremiah put it even more challengingly!
“Cursed are those…” he says
Don’t take Jeremiah for a witch or someone with some mysterious power to call misfortune upon others. I doubt if he has that power at all, I mean, it’s not his mission. But if he says “cursed are those…” it’s because in his wisdom he discerns the end of the road certain people have taken. He’s not predicting the future in sense of having power to know what will happen tomorrow; he’s just being a prophet -a man of the moment who follows with alertness how the present unfolds. Indeed, “cursed are those…” not because someone is casting misfortune on them but rather that, in their own pursuit for happiness, they have taken a path that unfolds into an end which is disastrous.
Talking about trusting in mere mortal man, possibly Jeremiah may have seen his contemporaries, kings or other persons, who put aside the alliance with God and ingratiated themselves, for some favour, with those wielded power, military or economic. He sounds the alarm to warn them of the disaster to which they expose themselves, comparing them to the plant in the desert that may flourish but only for a short time. Here’s what he says:
“Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness…”
Surely, this is about a person what has decided to turn his back on the source of life and happiness, the Lord, and to turn his face onto things that give only the illusion of happiness. Then, the curse, there you understand, is but a result of one’s own choices in life!
Who are the rich?
“But woe to you who are rich…” that’s what we find in the Gospel. But, who are the rich? Please, don’t fear to work hard; if that can improve your condition of life, and possibly even enabling you to become rich -that would be legitimate. Certainly, God wants you to be well off. The rich denounced here are not just those who have earned what they have just by working hard, but rather those who, besides pushing God off their lives, go further to use dubious means for their profit, even on the backs of others. Such injustice can’t pass unnoticed by Luke who, sensitive to the oppressed, seeks to transmit a message of hope and liberation to the little ones of society.
But there are also those who are rich before God; both Jeremiah and Jesus have a word for them.
“They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Well, you and I are seeking to be happy and prosper in what we do; yet, not every way we take leads us to what we are looking for. At times we settle in some illusion. The word of God this Sunday is a wake-up message; shaking us out of the slumber of deceptions we may be wallowing in. It’s time to ask oneself: between the two groups that Jeremiah, the psalmist and Jesus talk about -where do I place myself? The chaff to be blown by wind or a tree planted near running water?
Well, in our pursuit for happiness, Jeremiah challenges us to face certain questions: how durable and reliable is the way I have taken? How does it connect with others and God?
In the Gospel Jesus opens us to another way of looking at happiness.
When you feel disadvantaged
There are times when you wonder and ask yourself if you are really on the right track? How come things don’t look as bright as you would like them to be? In fact, you may be watching with envy your friends prospering. Is that what it means to be a believer in God? Not finding answers to those questions has led some people to backslide and just abandon altogether their faith in God. That’s why we need a word which confirms us and encourages us in the choice we have made. Jesus is doing just that.
There are crowds there, but Jesus chooses to fix his eyes on those who have made up their mind to follow him. “Happy are you!” he tells them. Indeed, it’s helpful to pause and just relish the blessing of being Christian. By the way, how conscious are you of this? If you are not, it’s on you Jesus fixes his eyes to assure you: happy are you for being my disciple! And that’s not all. There’s something more.
Happy are you, now!
We have the beatitude in the Mathew, and the happiness is presented as something to look forward to; a promise yet to be fulfilled. On the contrary, there’s immediacy in the manner Jesus speaks of beatitude in the Gospel according to Luke: “Happy are you…the kingdom of God is yours”. Take note of the present tense. Jesus is talking not about the kingdom to come; but rather the one that’s already there. It’s about now! The joy of being Christian is not a prospective for tomorrow. Embracing the life of the risen Lord is choosing to take part, here and now, in his risen life. It’s becoming the citizen of heaven, here on earth. Surely, things may not always be sugary, and yet, you are assured for have your roots deep in the right soil. And so, even though you may be going through tough times, like desert conditions, you can be sure to bloom for, in Jesus, you are planted near running water -there you have the grace of being Christian.
For this one grace I ask the Lord
That I may ever be aware of the precious treasure I carry within me -the treasure of being your disciple. There’s my life and my happiness!
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