Sunday Sermon for February 17, 2019, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Jer 17:5-8; 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26
In the first reading today the Prophet Jeremiah declares cursed those who trust in human beings while turning their hearts from the Lord. Blessed, on the other hand, are those who trust in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. This cuts deeply coming from the Prophet, but as we see at the beginning of the reading, this is not the Prophet’s mere opinion. Instead, Jeremiah begins with the formula “Thus says the Lord.” In other words, this is not from Jeremiah; this is from God.
We need to be brutally honest with ourselves and ask whether or not we really trust in the Lord. Most of us would say we do trust Him, but if we look deeper we will find we actually trust ourselves, other people, money, material possessions, and any number of other things more than we trust in the Lord. Sadly, we trust creatures more than we trust the Creator!
I think most of us trust God in a vague, objective, or generic sense. This means our trust is more of an intellectual acknowledgment of the truth that God is trustworthy. However, on the subjective level, when we have to let go of something and put it in God’s hands we often fail miserably. We take back what we have entrusted to Him, we try to control the situation; we worry ourselves sick because we do not trust.
It is only when we look at things from this very practical and subjective perspective that we recognize how little we actually trust God. According to the first reading, we are cursed when we fail to trust in the Lord. We have to remind ourselves of our Lord’s words when He taught if a person is trustworthy in small matters, that person will be trustworthy in large matters as well. Of course, this implies that if a person is not trustworthy in small matters, that person will not be trustworthy in large matters either.
This point becomes critical for us because we have to trust our Lord in the largest of matters. In the second reading St. Paul speaks about the resurrection from the dead; he also tells us if Jesus is not resurrected, we are still in our sins. We are talking about the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life. These truths are so important that we profess them every time we pray the Creed!
Now, based on what we have already said, if we do not trust God in our daily lives with the smallest of things, then how can we trust Him with the largest of things? Why would I believe my sins are actually removed from my soul when I go to confession? Why would I believe my body will rise from the dead? Why would I believe Jesus died for me and that I can go to Heaven when I die? If God cannot be trusted to care for my needs in ordinary circumstances, why would I think He can be trusted with the most extraordinary circumstances?
Perhaps this is why Jesus, in the Gospel reading today, pronounces blessed those who are poor, hungry, weeping, or hated on His account. It is when we are in trouble that we tend to turn to God. More importantly, it is in these times that we learn to trust the Lord. Some might say they would trust God if He just made things easy all the time. However, it is only in difficult times that a person proves himself. On our part, we prove ourselves faithful or unfaithful when things get difficult. On God’s part, we come to understand His goodness only when we suffer.
This seems counterintuitive. However, our Lord pronounces a woe on those who are rich, who are filled, who laugh now, and who are spoken well of. Why? Because these people often trust in their money, their material possessions, or their good times. They can give lip service to God while not really trusting Him at all.
When we experience suffering we learn that God is faithful, we learn that He brings good out of our suffering, we learn that the people we trusted often abandon us, but God does not. When we see how the Lord provides for us in our suffering, then we learn that He is truly trustworthy. We learn to depend on Him; we make Him the center of our lives. We learn what His love and fidelity really mean. We learn He is our hope.
If we do not trust God now, how will we trust Him at the end of our lives? Truly blessed are those who trust the Lord, whose hope is the Lord, they will share in the rewards of their trust: union with God and eternal life.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.