Those Whose Hearts Turn From God Are Like A Shrub In the Desert
First Reading (Jeremiah 17. 5 – 8)
Psalm 1
Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15.12, 16-20)
Gospel (Luke 6.17. 20-26)
Easy or hard. Light or dark. Good or bad. There are always two ways. Do we follow the harder
path of righteousness? Or the seemingly easier path of wickedness? Today’s readings offer us
meditations on the blessing of following the path of righteousness.

In recent times here in Canada and in many parts of the world, we see and experience bushfire,
torrential rain and floods, earthquakes, natural disasters, destroying livestock and farming land
and living millions homeless. There has not been enough favorable weather or sustain many of
our gardens. In search of water, trees have been sending their roots down further and further into
the earth. And as these trees send their roots further and further in search of water, they have
damaged the earth around them. Footpaths are lifted-up and cracked. Foundations are destroyed.
And, if you are a gardener, you will know how difficult it has been to try to nurse a favourite
plant through drought. How a frequent, shallow, surface watering is just no good. What is
necessary is the occasional deep, deep soaking. Allowing water to penetrate the parched earth
and get to those thirsty roots. I am sure these images are so familiar to us from when we see
famine/ drought in the world. Prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading using these images. He
uses them as a metaphor to contrast the one who puts their trust in human things, and the one
who puts their trust in the Lord. For Jeremiah, the one who relies on things of flesh, whose heart
is turned from the Lord is like the dry scrub in the wastelands. The person who relies on human
things becomes no better than the parched places of the wilderness, a salt land, uninhabited.
There is no life in the wilderness. It is empty, lifeless, desolate. In contrast is the one who puts
his trust in the Lord. For to live, trusting in the Lord, is to be ‘like the tree by the waterside that
thrusts its roots to the stream.’ In the heat of the day, this tree is safe. It has green leaves, and
‘never ceases to bear fruit.’

It is full, alive, fruitful. Full and alive is the Christ preached by St Paul in the second reading. In
this part of the First Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul is answering questions that seem to have
arisen in the Church community at Corinth. As we can gather from our reading today, some had
doubted the resurrection of the dead. No one doubted that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead.
Only, it seems, did some of them doubt that the resurrection of Jesus means that we, too, are
raised from the dead. Paul is quite consistent and constant in his preaching. As St Paul told us in
last week’s second reading: ‘I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died
for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life
on the third day.’ (1 Cor 15:3-4). There is no doubt that Christ has been raised from the dead.
And if he has been raised from the dead, then all of us are raised from the dead, because Christ
is ‘the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.’ In some ways, the contrast from the first reading
is continued. ‘Happy is the one who believes in the resurrection of Christ from the dead…cursed
is the one who does not believe.’

Today’s Gospel Reading continues the series of contrasts in our readings for this Sunday. And
this series of contrasts is continued in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. We are much more
familiar with the version of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke’s version is not only
shorter, but also, for the four Beatitudes, there are four Woes. For the four phrases which begin
‘How happy are you…’ there are four phrases which begin ‘Alas for you…’ or ‘Woe to you…’

The word ‘Happy’ in this Reading needs a bit of explaining. ‘Happy’ is used here not in the
sense of moral happiness. In other words, the person who is meant to be happy because they are
hungry is not happy in the ordinary sense of the word. After all, who could be happy when they
are hungry? Or poor? Or weeping? Rather, they are happy or blessed because of the coming
action of God. And the coming action of God is to bring life from death in the resurrection of
Jesus from the dead. And so, the one who is poor, or hungry, or who weeps, or who is hated is
happy or blessed because of what God is about to show in their life. In this sense, these
Beatitudes are highly provocative. For, holding together two contrasting ideas, they proclaim

that true happiness or blessedness in the Kingdom of God lies in God turning the world upside
down. For those who are rich now, those who are satisfied now, those who are laughing now,
those who are liked by the world now will not be the winners in the Kingdom. In the coming
Kingdom of God, the wisdom of the world is turned upside down. In the coming Kingdom of
God, the vision of Jesus Christ is different to the vision of this world. And this is one of the
constant themes of Luke’s Gospel which we will read in the course of this liturgical year. We
see it in the Magnificat of Mary where the mighty are cast from their thrones and the hungry are
fed with good things. We see this in the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus proclaims good
news for the poor, and liberty for captives, and new sight for the blind.

What these Beatitudes depict is a situation of extreme vulnerability. According to what the
world values – those situations which the Woes address – it makes little sense to be this
vulnerable. Yet, in light of what God is about to do, it makes very good sense indeed. Because to
be vulnerable gives scope and space to God’s power. To be full of what the world values is to
leave little space for God to fill. To be small in this world gives space for the power and glory of
God to shine out. To hang on the Cross, dying the death of a criminal, is for us, life and indeed,
the ultimate glory of God. A vulnerable community becomes the place where God is made
welcome, and where others see that God is present. And so, blessed are we when we put our
trust in the Lord, and send our roots not into the parched earth of this world, but rather into the
stream of God’s power and grace and glory.

God tells us to be careful with the values of this world’s security, human power, riches and
whatever we handle as life demands. He asks us not only to handle them with care but also, to
add with them the values of Go to be more prudent enough. In Jeremiah we read as the Lord
says, that ‘cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh.’ Paul
cautions us about the secular values. “If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are
the most pitiable of men.”

All those values and endowments offered by this world, according to God’s Word, are very
deceptive, poisonous, and unreliable. So it leads us to trust on a Supreme Being and His values,
that have been handed down by Jesus. It expects us t be more dependent on God and more
independent from all human and worldly resources. That kind of attitude is called in the Bible
as ‘anawim spirit.’ Anawim’ in Hebrew language means ‘the needy and empty spirit.’ The
Word of God encourages us to develop a heart of ‘anawim’, which is empty and helpless and
seeking the power of God.

Most of us feel that, this sort of religion makes us inferior, fearful, timid, and not classy. But, in
fact it adds more strength to our life. This anawim spirit does not keep us always poor, sad,
mourning, and low, but it inspires us to seek the prosperity of God, it seeks the happiness of
God. If need be, it offers strength to struggle with unfavorable situations. Once we reach to a
certain prosperity, popularity and life’s joys, again we struggle with God, to help and support
his, other children to search for God’s prosperity. Jesus’ Gospel is not a negation or
condemnation of life’s resources and accomplishments in this world. Rather, it is a wise
reminder to all of us that we are born not just for this world. We are born for greater things, and
for God and His results. Therefore people who are struggling for their own family’s prosperity
and happiness, should keep on struggling within the framework of Justice and Compassion of
God. Those who have got that world prosperity, popularity and happiness, must not stop there.
They have to keep on struggling to perform the duties of God’s children and help to establish
His Kingdom of Justice and Compassion in this world.

God bless.