The tree in the desert that doesn’t sink its roots into a source of water is doomed to wither and die. It’s likewise is we don’t find God as our endless source of love. CNS photo/Chaz Muth

God's Word on Sunday: God’s endless love will never fail us

  • February 6, 2022

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Feb. 13 (Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26)

“Cursed is the one who trusts in mere mortals” does not sound like a ringing endorsement of people or an encouragement to human relationships. Many would see such statements as extreme and cynical.

On the other hand, look at what the past few years have brought us: continual scandal and revelation of the seamier side of humanity from those whom we admire and trust.

The foibles and sins of politicians, educators, entertainment figures and religious leaders have disappointed and wounded many people. It would be all too easy to withdraw from any sort of engagement and cease to believe in anything.

But look at what the continuation of Jeremiah’s reading says: those cursed are those who “made mere flesh their strength.” In other words, those who drew their inspiration and sustenance from human sources.

These sources will almost always fail; humanity is too deeply damaged and self-deluding for it to be otherwise. There is only one source that will never waver or betray us, and that is the endless source of kindness, love and light that we call God. Jeremiah — and Psalm 1 — use a well-known symbol in the ancient near east, that of the tree in the midst of the desert.

The tree that fails to sink its roots into a source of water will wither and die. But the tree that finds the source will not only survive but flourish, even amidst the scoffers and the wicked, who will eventually be blown away like chaff in the wind.

Today many people feel depleted, discouraged and confused. Nothing seems stable and our world is polarized and on edge. Dark revelations in the media come with distressing regularity. It is more important than ever that we sink our own roots ever deeper until they find the source of life itself.

We too can do far more than merely survive; we can flourish, even in the midst of today’s chaos and darkness. Each day we can ask ourselves, “What is the source of my strength and sustenance?” How we answer that question will determine whether we are on the right path.

Some in Corinth were doubting the Resurrection. If that were true, Paul insisted, then we are in a fine fix. If the dead are not raised, then neither was Christ raised, and if that is the case, we are still in our sins and are without hope. Paul then slammed a verbal fist on the table and insisted that Christ had indeed been raised and would be followed by all the faithful later.

The Resurrection is not a peripheral doctrine and is largely misunderstood. In whatever way we want to express it, one reality remains: God is not finished with us; we are a work in progress. Life, growth, learning and loving all continue beyond this mortal life. And if that does not give us hope, then nothing will.

Luke’s version of the Beatitudes is shorter and sparer than that of Matthew. There are only four blessings, and these are followed by four woes, which are not found in Matthew. But the point that Luke makes is clear: do not be misled by appearances, especially in the society in which you live.

Do not confuse the way things are for the way things should be. Wealth and power are not signs of God’s favour. They can and will soon be taken away so that the poor and hungry can be given life. Grief and tears are heard by God and will be comforted. Standing up for what is right or for one’s faith in God are not futile exercises despite ridicule and rejection.

These Beatitudes were given in an atmosphere of apocalyptic expectation. People believed that the world was in serious trouble and that only God could put it right, and they expected that divine intervention was imminent. Obviously, that has not occurred in a way that is clear to us, although it could be argued that Christ Himself was that intervention.

The world as we know it today does not reflect God’s will or qualities and never has. When God completes God’s work in human history, we will live in a just and compassionate world. In the meantime, we have the opportunity to thrive spiritually, not just for our sakes but for the life of the world.