Liturgical Readings and Comments
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Saint Paul’s Parish Bible Group
This Sunday’s readings are full of paradoxes and contrasts. The first reading compares a worldly attitude with a spiritual one; while the gospel invites us to take temporary adversities, such as poverty, as a source of eternal happiness.
FIRST READING Jeremiah 17: 5-8
‘The Lord says this:
‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.
‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.
*Jeremiah, using examples from the vegetable kingdom, makes a rather poetic comparison between the man who trusts in his human abilities with the one who trusts in God alone. We often see in this life that the self-conceited, worldly man does “well”, is respected and even praised for his achievements, but the prophet says that he is like a “dry scrub in a wasteland,” for all his success will dry up one day as he does not refer his talents to God. In the other hand, we often see God-fearing people being mocked and pushed, but with the help of God, these can be just like trees with their roots thrust in the waters of grace, untroubled by the heat of persecutions and their foliage stays green with the life of Christ.
This passage from Jeremiah is in fact part of a rebuke to the people of Juda who have allowed their worship to become contaminated by idolatrous practices and it comes right after he has foretold the upcoming invasion. Interestingly, the prophet compares the invaders with fishermen, when in last Sunday’s gospel our Lord was making his disciples “fishers of men.” (Lk 5:9-10)
Responsorial Psalm Ps 1
Response: Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord.
1. Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night. Response
2. He is like a tree that is planted
beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaves shall never fade;
and all that he does shall prosper. Response
3. Not so are the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff
shall be driven away by the wind.
For the Lord guards the way of the just
but the way of the wicked leads to doom. Response
* We just read the opening of the book of Psalms, where the Holy Spirit is basically telling us “Stay away from sinners, think about God’s law!” Here, we are being warned about adopting the sinful ways of the world, or, as we were just commenting about Jeremiah in the first reading, we are told to avoid “contamination” in the sense that bad company can easily lead us away from God. We Catholics often find ourselves in situations where we have to choose between a “friendship” and the teachings of our faith, which is not easy. Even when the decision is clearly between good and bad, we can still find it difficult to act wisely, but in doing so, we will always be assured that we are treading on the path to eternal happiness, which is only possible with the grace of God.
SECOND READING 1 Corintians 15: 12. 16-20
If Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.
But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.
*St. Paul uses simple logic to explain the wretchedness of mankind, and especially Christians, if the resurrection is not real: If there is no bodily resurrection, Christ hasn’t been risen, therefore, you are still in your sins. If Christ has not redeemed us by his passion and resurrection, then we are all spiritually dead (condemned).
This passage also points to the fact that the work of redemption did not end at the cross with the death of our Lord, as it’s commonly viewed, in other words, we were not saved just yet as our Lord’s body hung on the cross, he also had to rise to save us. It makes sense that it is the living Christ who imparts eternal life.
“If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we are most unfortunate.” This is the key phrase for this Sunday: The Christian life can be very paradoxical as it can be full of joy but also hardships. In fact, many abandon faith in the face of these hardships, while the joys usually come from things we hope for and not necessarily from things present here and now.
Gospel Acclamation Lk 6: 23
Rejoice and be glad: your reward will be great in heaven.
GOSPEL Luke 6: 17. 20-26
Jesus came down with the twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.
Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said:
‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.
Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’
“Stopped at a piece of level ground” Consider that the One who commands us, through the prophet Isaiah, to fill in the valleys and to level the mountains (Isa 40:4), decides to proclaim his code of Christian life while standing on “level ground,” according to Luke.
Tyre and Sidon were in pagan territory, this means that not only Jews but people from outside of Palestine came in search of our Lord for healing and for teaching, already pointing towards the universality of the New Covenant in his blood.
The list of eight beatitudes, which we are more familiar with, is found in Matthew’s gospel, while Luke’s account here, presents us with four beatitudes and four contrasting woes. Let us briefly consider these:
“How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.” Poverty here, understood as detachment from material goods, is the key which opens the doors of the kingdom of God … with all its riches. For just like a poor person can be greedy, also a rich Christian can use his wealth to help expand the kingdom of Christ not finding his happiness in money but in God alone.
“Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.” Slightly different from “Hunger and thirst for righteousness” as found in Matthew, but probably given in the same sense, meaning hunger for holiness. St. Thomas of Aquinas was once asked what to do to be holy, to which he responded, “One must desire it.” Similarly, when one is satisfied with this present life or with the state of his soul, such a person risks going hungry for eternity.
“Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.” We must not understand just any type of weeping here, for many weep selfishly. This rather is the weeping which comes from injustices, especially the injustices committed against God, a.k.a. sin. So, weep for sins, yours and other people’s, and you will be happy. Many laugh now, but our Lord has reserved for himself the last laugh.
“Happy are you when people hate you…” The obsession with popularity is a worldly attitude that can creep even into the Church herself, but here, Christ compares hated Christians with the prophets nonetheless. Provided that one is a good Christian, when we are hated, we can expect a prophet’s reward. Don’t forget that “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.” (Jn 15:19).