Life & Soul Life and Soul

Only faith can make us fulfilled: a reflection on this Sunday’s readings

Sixth Sunday of the Year
Jer 17:5-8; 1 Cor 15:12 & 16-20; Lk 6:17 & 20-26 (Year C)

“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 in the law of the Lord, and who ponders his law day and night.”

The responsorial psalm sets before us an attitude of mind and heart rather than a series of detailed commandments and prohibitions. It invites us to a prayerful communion with the Lord, so that his ways might become our ways, his thoughts our thoughts. Echoing these sentiments, Jesus warned his disciples that what is said and done flows from what fills the heart.

Through contrasting blessings and curses the prophet Jeremiah challenged the underlying attitudes of a sinful generation: “A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.”

These words, with their emphasis on trust, take us to the heart of faith. It is in faith alone that we surrender ourselves to the Lord, entrusting to him both our sinfulness and our longing for salvation. Sin leads to the illusion that we can save ourselves. In the words of Jeremiah, such false hope withers, becoming a parched wasteland. “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.”

Humility acknowledges that we are not self-sufficient. As the roots of the tree search for living water, so faith searches for the presence of the living Lord.

Luke’s account of the Beatitudes, unlike Matthew’s, follows the ancient format contrasting blessing with woe: “How happy are you who are poor, you who are hungry and you who weep. Yours is the kingdom of God; you shall be satisfied; you shall laugh.”

The starkness of these words remind us that we can never enjoy wealth and ignore the poor, nor eat and forget the starving. Equally, we must share the tears of the dispossessed. “Alas for you who are rich, you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have your fill: you shall go hungry. Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.”

These words bring us back to faith’s fundamental attitude. Faith brings us to the Father as the poor, the hungry and those who weep.