6th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.”

These are the words that we heard in our first reading.  In the first reading, Jeremiah the Prophet teaches us the same thing that Our Lord teaches us in today’s Gospel: We need to place all our trust in the Lord.  If we put our trust in the Lord, Jeremiah says, we will be like a tree planted near a stream.  Being like a tree planted near a stream does not sound like all that big of a deal to us here today, but it would have been quite a powerful image for his hearers: the people that Jeremiah was speaking to lived in a desert.  We all know that it does not rain in the desert very often, and therefore a tree that is not near a stream will not long survive.  Jeremiah is saying that if we put our trust in God, we will have nothing to worry about: God will provide for us, just like the stream provides for the tree that is in the desert even when there are long periods of drought.  If we put our trust in ourselves, on the other hand, Jeremiah says that we will be like a barren bush in the middle of a wasteland.

Our Lord is telling us the same thing in the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes are extreme: you are blessed, Our Lord says, if you are poor and hungry and weeping and hated.  These do not sound like blessings at all.  Let’s take a brief look at these four things and try to get to the bottom of what Our Lord is trying to teach us.

First of all, let us examine the poverty that Our Lord spoke about.  Mere lack of material things is not at the heart of what Our Lord is referring to: it is not simply a matter of whether we have or do not have material goods.  This first Beatitude goes much deeper: it refers to our heart and to our soul.  Our Lord says that wherever our treasure is, there also will our heart be.  Our Lord is calling us to be detached from the things of this world.  It is not wrong to have things and to use them, of course.  The danger is that material possessions can weigh us down: we can easily become attached to material things and allow ourselves to become preoccupied with them.  Material things become a problem if I put them ahead of my relationship with God.

Second, we look at what Our Lord meant by ‘hunger.’  Again, Our Lord did not mean for us to be hungry for hunger’s sake.  God is not happy because people are hungry.  God wants us to be hungry for Him, ultimately.  God desires that we desire Him.  He wants us to love Him with all our hearts.  He wants to feed our hearts with Himself in the Eucharist.

This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.  It is a day that the Church asks us to fast and abstain from meat.  Ash Wednesday kicks off the Season of Lent.  During Lent, many of us will, undoubtedly, give some things up.  It is important to remind ourselves of why it is that we are making sacrifices.  We give things up during Lent in order to grow in self-discipline and offer up the sacrifice to God.  That is true, but what we are really saying to God, when we give something up, is that we love Him more than we love chocolate, or whatever it is that we have decided to give up.  When I fast, I should offer it up to God whenever hunger pangs strike; but I should also recall that this sacrifice that I am making is supposed to remind me that I am to love God more than whatever I have given up.  I am to love God above all things and giving something that I enjoy up for love of Him shows Him, in my actions, that I love Him more than whatever it is that I have given up for Lent.

Third, let us consider the weeping that Our Lord called ‘blessed.’  We can shed tears for all sorts of different reasons: we can shed tears of sorrow, we can have tears of anger, and we can shed tears on account of being hurt.  The weeping that Jesus refers to is weeping over our sins.  On Ash Wednesday, all who come to Mass will receive ashes on their forehead.  Those ashes are meant to be a sign of repentance: a sign that we detest and regret our sins.  We should have sorrow for our sins because they offend God, Who is all good and deserving of all our love: that is perfect sorrow or contrition.  This weeping, mentioned by Our Lord, is weeping for our sins, but weeping for our sins on account of great love in our hearts for God.  Whenever we come to confession, we ought to have at least some level of sorrow for our sins: even if the only reason that I am sorry for my sin is because I know that what I did was wrong.

Fourth and finally, Our Lord called blessed those who are hated because they follow Him.  Jesus said that if the world hates us, that we should remember that it first hated Him.  Jesus did not just give us the Beatitudes He lived them out Himself.  Jesus also told us that we are to take up our cross and follow Him.  Our faith is meant to put into practice: not just on Sunday mornings, but all week long.  As Christians, we ought to stand up for what we know is right.  We are called to bear witness to our Catholic Faith in the midst of a culture which is hostile towards our Church.  We are to bear witness to our Faith by our actions and by our words.  We should be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us.  (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)  Part of being a good Catholic Christian includes being a witness to others.

Through the Beatitudes the Lord calls us to follow Him with our whole heart.  The Beatitudes are a call to love God and follow the example of Jesus in a radical, and selfless way.  The Beatitudes are not easy but if we live them, Our Lord tells us that we will be satisfied and our reward will be great in Heaven.

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