February 17, 2019
by Ed Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 78

Jeremiah 17:5-8
Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20
Luke 6:17, 20-26

Praying Ordinary Time

Today’s readings present vivid imagery for comparison: barren bushes vs. verdant trees; parched lava vs. moist fertile soil; withering death vs. fruitful life; hunger and thirst vs. satisfaction; curses vs. blessings; mourning vs. comfort; rejection vs. approval; grieving vs. laughter.

We naturally desire the latter categories, which contribute toward sustaining and enriching our lives. But desires are often unfulfilled.  Sometimes we choose not to fulfill a desire to achieve a greater good.  For example, I might desire athletic or musical skills, but I am not willing to sacrifice other goods to practice regularly. (Of course, we also face natural limits, as giftedness is not distributed equally.)  In choosing good things, such as work or family life, we may sacrifice other desires that are licit. We are created in freedom to make these choices, hopefully choosing the greater and higher goods as best we can.

Admittedly, we also cause great trouble for ourselves because we choose to sin.  Perhaps we may think we are pursuing some good, but we are deceived into using the wrong means to attain it. Sin can seem like the easy path, but it is never the right path.  It also does not lead to the contentment we desire. (I’m sorry to say, been there, done that.)

 Whether we are choosing the higher good or avoiding sin, our journey often requires that we climb uphill and swim against the current. Vigilance and courage are needed.  The counsel of the wicked may be all around us, coming from media, popular culture, and even from our friends who have lost their way.  Going along may gain us approval and acceptance, but it leads to perdition, not blessing.  The company of the insolent can be consoling or even entertaining for a time, but it drains away joy and gratitude required for faithful living. (Examine the grievance culture that seems to be ascending in our society and you will witness the paucity of joy and gratitude, but ample fruits of envy, vengeance, bitterness, and destruction.) 

Today’s gospel might sound perplexing, but it makes perfect sense when placed in this context:  we must discern by reference to fidelity to eternal truths, not immediate consequences. External signs like prosperity and accolades that we prefer may instead be warning signs on the road to perdition. Suffering, frustration, and derision from others may instead be signs of blessing when they are the consequence of holding on to the truth. The power to do evil and afflict the righteous is temporary; justice will come because Jesus, himself, will return to bring it.  Today’s Gospel is reinforced by Paul’s teaching that tells us to hold on to the deeper truth that our Lord’s resurrection and triumph over death, sin, and evil, which means we will triumph, too.

Who or what do we trust to sustain us?  To whom do we go for counsel and advice?  Are we willing to experience distress and loss because we choose to hold on to truths that are unpopular?  Can joy and blessedness come in the midst of trials, which mean more than the fleeting delights of our waywardness?  These are important questions for us to ponder.  Pray that this truth of the resurrection will become more real to us, and that we will have the wisdom and courage to embrace it more fully, no matter where it leads. We know that He who leads us is faithful.  Thanks be to God.    

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