“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.” (Jeremiah 17:5-6)
Last Sunday, Peter was asked by Jesus to put out his net for a catch and he initially protested because it didn’t make any sense fishing at that time of the day but when Peter obeyed, he saw with his own eyes the benefit of trusting God completely. Obedience to God requires trust and if trust is lacking, obeying God is very difficult. Basically, our readings today are all about trusting in God even when all is not well; even when we are poor, hungry, weeping, hated by others, persecuted, and let down by those in power.
Jesus tells us to rejoice and be glad even in the midst of whatever suffering or discomfort we may face now because the reward of trusting God is far greater than what we can even imagine. Are you going through tough times right now? Does it seem as if God is weak or powerless in solving your problem? Let the words of Jesus sink deep into you. God knows what He is doing. Just trust Him.
On the other hand, if we do not trust God, or as Jeremiah puts it, if our hearts are turned away from God and we begin to seek security in our fellow human beings, we bring upon ourselves a curse. It is a curse to trust in people. Not only do they disappoint us when we need them the most, we become like persons dwelling in the parched places of a wilderness, yet longing for water.
As Judas betrayed Jesus, even your most trusted friend can betray you. No matter how rough things may be for you, only in God should your trust be built. Let us now consider some lessons in today’s readings:
1. Never forget That You are a Pilgrim on Earth
One of the mistakes of the Israelites while journeying from Egypt to the Promised Land was that at some point, they forgot that they were simply on a journey. They could no longer wait to get to the place where God was leading them. They forgot the great deeds by which God took them out of Egypt, because of water, meat, and bread, they rebelled against God. At a point, they turned their golden earrings and ornaments into a god to which they worshipped. Similary, many Christians today forget that God is leading them somewhere, they give up on God and begin to seek out greener pastures from the worship of idols.
Always remember that this world as a whole is not your final destination; that you do not belong here. Do not take your eyes away from your real destination. Rather than turn to the worship of false gods like the Israelites, let the problems you face deepen your longing for heaven where all tears will be wiped from your eyes.
The key word in the beatitudes is “now.” Blessed are you poor… blessed are you that hunger now… blessed are you who weep now… blessed are you when men hate you… By “now”, Jesus means “in this life.” Jesus is saying that rather than see ourselves as less fortunate because of our sufferings in this life, we should consider ourselves lucky and privileged when we are faced with poverty, sorrow, hunger, or hatred because these things will guarantee us happiness and fulfilment in our true homeland.
2. God Never Fails
Both Jeremiah and our Psalmist today tell us that he “who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted by the river… its leaves remain green and it never stops bearing fruit…. All that he does shall prosper.” What does it mean to place our trust in God? It means remaining steadfast to keeping God’s commandments. As our Psalmist today says: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord.” (Psalm 1:1-2). To trust God is to delight in His Law, to stay away from the wicked.
It takes trust in God for a hungry man to avoid stealing when he has the chance to do so. It takes trust in God for a poor man or woman to avoid committing a sinful act that promises untold riches. God knows how to take care of those who trust him by obeying Him and making Him a priority in their lives. As Jesus would say: “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and every other thing would be added as well.” (Matthew 6:33).
3. The Wealth of the Wicked is Like Winnowed Chaff
The last paragraph of our Psalm and the second aspect of our Gospel passage is addressed to those who think that there is something to gain from sin and evil. When Jesus proclaimed woes to those who are rich, He was referring to those who have made their riches through very dubious means as well as those who seek cheap popularity.
Right now, the wicked may appear to be prospering but in truth, such prosperity is winnowed chaff. It is there today and blown off to the winds tomorrow. As St. Paul tells us: “the only reward we get from sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). This message is particularly for those who now believe the only way they can be rich and successful in life is to go into the practice of internet fraud, ritual killings, immorality, and other forms of nefarious activities.
It is not all that glitters that is gold. Ill-gotten wealth (blood-money) is a curse one places upon his or her head. If you think you will laugh by making others cry, your laughter will soon become mourning and loud lamentation. God is merciful but even in his mercy, he never sleeps nor slumber. He will surely hear the cry of the poor. He will not let the oppressor go free. As the saying goes, “every day is for the thief but one day is for the owner of the house.”
4. Be Mindful of Heretical Doctrines
In today’s second reading, St. Paul seeks to address a very serious problem in the early church. Amongst the Corinthians were some heretical preachers who said that there is no resurrection from the dead. Note that in the time of Jesus, there were some who asked Jesus about a woman who was married to seven brothers and all died leaving no child. They wanted to know whose wife she would be in the resurrection. Jesus could see they had a misconception of the meaning of the resurrection. He told them that in that life, we shall be like the angels.
St. Paul made it quite clear that any Christian who doubts the fact that we shall be raised from the dead is indirectly doubting the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. According to St. Paul, to say we are not going to rise again is to say Jesus did not rise from the dead to say such, it would mean that our faith is futile. If Christ was raised from the dead, it means that all of us who believe in Christ shall be raised to life again. This is the basis of our belief in the intercession of the saints.
Put simply, this world is not our final destination, we shall be raised to another life just as Christ was raised to life after three days in the tomb. Do not be discouraged by your present situation in life. There is a better life to come. Keep trusting in God.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to keep trusting in you when I am poor, hungry, weak, tired, and oppressed. May I never take my eyes off the many rooms you have prepared for me in your Father’s house. Amen.
(Bible Study: Jer. 17:5-8, Ps. 1:1-4,6, 1 Cor. 15:12,16-20, Luke 6:17,20-26).