FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Jeremiah 17:5-8 | Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6 | 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20 | Luke 6:17, 20-26
Our readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time call us to take up the challenge of the Beatitudes, be blessed and show our world what true happiness and the deepest of joy look like.
Cookie, a little puppy, noticed that whenever she was happy, her tail wagged, so she thought she had found the secret to happiness. One day she shared her secret with Creamer, an older dog. She said, "I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness, and that happiness is in my tail. So I am going to pursue my tail and when I catch it, I shall achieve happiness!" Creamer, the older dog replied, "I too, believe that happiness is a fantastic thing for a dog, and that happiness is in my tail. But I have noticed that when I hurry after it, my tail keeps running away from me; but when I just go about my business, it follows me wherever I go."
In common usage, “joy” and “happiness” could very well be seen as synonyms, but there is an important difference. Happiness depends on circumstances or other people. One can be happy when eating ice cream, reading a good book, receiving flowers on Valentine's Day, getting promoted at work, or watching anything pleasurable. Joy is a personal fullness or sense of completeness in one’s entire life as a result of knowing and trusting God. It doesn’t matter what is going on around us — family and relationship problems, health problems, financial difficulties, persecution, multiple natural disasters, or death in the family, — we can still feel joy and it cannot be taken from us. In the First reading, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that joy consists in our placing our trust in God and in putting our trust in His promises. He compares the man who trusts in the Lord to a tree bearing green leaves and fruit. The beatitudes are impossible to do without God's help. Thinking only about ourselves and having lots of things wouldn’t give us joy. We become "blessed" or "fortunate" or "enviable" when we rely on God, who always loves us and never changes. We must simply to put our trust and hope in the Lord, not in human beings. Many of us are like Cookie, the little puppy, chasing her tail, trying to find joy that is always just out of our reach. What we need to do is learn that if we will just go about our business and trust in the Lord, then joy will follow us wherever we go.
Cecilia, a florist, mixed up two orders one busy day. One arrangement went to a new business that was opening, and the other went to a family who had a death. The man with the new business came in ticked off: “The flowers that got delivered to my opening day, “Rest in peace.” Cecilia said, “You think you’re angry; you should have seen the family who just left. A bouquet was delivered to their family’s funeral that said, “Good luck in your new location.”
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul authoritatively declares that Jesus has been raised from the dead. His resurrection is the pledge that we will also rise from the dead. Death does not end life; another act follows. Therefore, our life in this world must be lived in the perspective of the life to come. All the great treasures in heaven will be available to us, provided we choose to live a life of these "Better Attitudes". Our condition and our way of living in our earthly life will determine what happens to us in eternal life.
One Day Mother Teresa took a woman off the streets in Calcutta. She had sores infested with bugs. Mother Teresa cleaned and dressed her sores while the woman never stopped shrieking and even using swear words and insults. Finally, the woman asked Mother Teresa, "Sister, why do you do this? Not everyone behaves like you. Who taught you?" Mother Teresa replied, "My God taught me." The woman said she wanted to know her God. Mother Teresa kissed her on the forehead and said, "You know my God. My God is called love."
The Gospel tells us who are considered "blessed" or "fortunate" or "enviable." In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us that in order to find joy, we must go beyond the minimum. He has come to teach us how to go beyond the minimum requirements of the Law and to respond to others with love. True love of God and neighbor begins in the heart and has its value from this interior disposition. Jesus wants us to be "mabuti" (hesed) and not merely "mabait" (parush). If one does not physically attack or injure his neighbor, he or she is "mabait". If one works to promote peace and reconciliation, he or she is "mabuti”. If a politician does not steal taxpayers' money he is "mabait". If a politician makes a conscious and active effort to fight corruption he is "mabuti." When we let our children get away with cussing or saying bad words because we don't want to hurt them, we are parents who are "mabait." If we discipline them and make them realize the seriousness of their deed, we are parents who are "mabuti." In the Beatitudes, Jesus taught that we will find joy in being humble, gentle and kind, accepting of loss in life, in really going for what is just and right, in being straightforward and people of integrity, and in making peace. We will find happiness in putting up with different hardships, humiliations and even injustice when the cause is for God. Jesus is looking for something far deeper than legal observances. He wants us to be motivated by love, to live loving lives, to care and to unselfishly give of ourselves to others and to our Father in heaven. This is the path to joy. Our Lord points out that obeying the "letter of the Law” is a matter of physical action, whereas obeying the “spirit of the Law” requires more than just outward actions. Ang nagbabait-baitan, mapupunta sa langit-langitan. Fake saints are bound to counterfeit heaven. Do we simply obey rules, or do we choose to live in love and concern for others? History is full of people who lived the Beatitudes. They are the flesh-and-blood examples that being "mabuti" actually produces incomparable joy in life. Want to know the secret to happiness? Try love. Want to be the best Catholic you can ever be? Try love. Want to make Jesus happy? Try love. Love for God is verified in one’s love for the neighbor. Jesus uses the words of The Beatitudes to paint a picture of what the true people of God look like. Not just mabait, but also mabuti.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum