Cycle C – Homily – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 13 February 2022
Lectionary I Lectionary II
Jeremiah 17:5-8 Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6 Psalm 1
1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Luke 6:17, 20-26 Luke 6:17-26
To me, the dynamics found in today’s readings are most interesting. The first two readings plus the Psalm seem to form a solid, bedrock-like foundation from which the gospel rises. Those readings are almost a prequel to the gospel! That may sound a bit dramatic, but, if it helps us understand the essence of Scripture, that is OK. Let’s look at how this plays out.
Jeremiah was certainly a prolific writer. Not only was he responsible for his own (rather long) book, he was at least a contributor to the Books of Kings and the Book of Lamentations. He was a major prophet and is recognized as a major contributor to the history and the teachings of all three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Prophets are not fortune tellers; they are men and women whose calling is to preach the ways of God and to point out the errors and mis-directions in the ways of the people they are prophesying to.
Jeremiah is well-known for his condemnation of idolatry, which, loosely defined, is putting something before God and that could be further interpreted as any deviations from God’s law. Jeremiah was definitely concerned about major deviations from God’s law (which, historically, eventually led to the fall of Jerusalem). And Jeremiah does not use sweet and gentle language when pointing out the errors of the people’s ways.
Our reading for today is classic Jeremiah. Jeremiah begins with this rather bombastic statement:
‘Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings!” This is followed by a rather colorful litany of negative similes and alliterations. After all, the people needed to know they were not doing things in accord with God’s will.
After his negative tirade, Jeremiah shifts to a positive and uplifting note and gives us a pastoral litany of similes reiterating that we are blessed for trusting in God (rather than in human beings). The picture Jeremiah paints is idyllic and refreshing and is a perfect lead-in for our Psalm. The Psalm centers around the refrain: “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” This is so positive! We just have to put our trust in God (rather than in humans) and hope in God and let our worries drop away.
All of this is pointing toward the gospel – but we are not there yet.
Have you ever been excitedly full of hope and joy and you feel you know exactly what to do? And then, suddenly, doubt overshadows you and you question your next moves? That is the feeling we get as we go into the reading from 1 Corinthians. Our religious ancestors had been so enthusiastic about what they had to do to be followers of Jesus the Christ – and what their subsequent reward would be. Suddenly, doubts set in and they began to question what would really happen after they left this life. What was the point in doing all that Jesus had commanded when they were no longer convinced of the next life? In writing this 1 Corinthians passage, Paul makes an impassioned plea to the people who were losing their vision.
Paul is giving that impassioned plea to us too. On our own individual journeys, we all falter and question and lose perspective and sometimes even lose hope. We all go through this on occasion – to a greater or lesser degree. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t! We all need to be reminded – or even just to remind ourselves – that there is a way to go, there is a path our God has for us, there is a God of hope, that if we do as our God has instructed, the glories of the next life that our God has promised will be ours.
All of this leads to today’s gospel, a gospel that was foreshadowed by the reading from Jeremiah. Today’s gospel is often called the Sermon on the Plain. Sometimes – unofficially! – this gospel has been called Beatitudes Lite or Mini-Beatitudes. The Beatitudes, known as the Sermon on the Mount, can be found in Matthew 25. Both the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain have the same basic focus – the hopeful positivity of doing and being right with God. (If you are interested in the specific similarities and differences between the two renditions of the Beatitudes, Google Sermon on the Plain and Sermon on the Mount. A number of interesting pieces of information can be found there.)
Both sets of Beatitudes are lists of actions or attitudes or promises to help keep us focused on our God. Although the Sermon on the Plain does include “Woe to” and “Blessed are” statements, the emphasis seems to be quite pastoral, offering basic guidance for daily living. I invite you to spend some time with the Sermon on the Plain. Choose your “favorite” beatitude and consider why you chose that particular line or lines.
Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.
I chose those two because I think we all relate to hunger and weeping. When we think about it, we all relate to all of the lines.
To sum up today’s lessons, we are first admonished not to put anything before God. We are encouraged remain hopeful. We are reminded that we all become discouraged but we are also reminded that our God is always with us. And finally, in the words of Jesus, we are again presented with the theme of putting God first and that when we do that, with hope, all aspects of our lives will be blessed.
Dr. Roberta M. Meehan, D.Min.