C Cycle – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk. 6:17, 20-26
Those who deal with the human psyche tell us we all have some basic need and that need drives us to attain it. It may be affirmation, love, recognition, belonging, self-esteem or security and we will do anything to satisfy that hunger. I happen to believe St. Augustine was voicing that same need in us when he said, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee O Lord.”
It is no wonder Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all things will be added. He was providing us a road map to gain true joy from life avoiding the trap of seeking satisfaction from things that only leave us hungering for more. I have a grandson who is graduating from college in May and he is looking forward to his first job in a field he loves. As much as he loves his chosen profession if he believes his job will bring him all he seeks from life, then he will be disappointed. Our jobs should be enjoyable and bring us satisfaction and material gain, but they are not the source of our happiness.
If we rely on ourselves, others, job, money, entertainment etc. for happiness we are doing exactly what Jeremiah is warning us about: “…cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh.” This is a hard lesson to learn because we have been taught since we were infants to work hard, to apply yourself, and you will be rewarded. Our system of reward and punishment works against us when we hear the teachings of Christ. We are taught to be self-reliant and Jesus tells us “he is the vine and we are the branches, apart from him we can do nothing.”
The teaching of Jesus in the Beatitudes was deliberate as he was challenging foundational concepts, we have instilled within us by society. He was revealing to us Kingdom Living and it is very different from earthly living. We would never consider mourning would be a way to be blessed. I have both witnessed and experienced mourning. I have watched my daughter deal with the pain of mourning and how the emptiness of not having that person you became one with creates an emptiness within your soul. it is difficult to find a blessing when you are hurting.
We could go down the list of the ways Jesus says we are blessed, and it is hard to find blessings in being poor or hungry, hated by others and in being persecuted. Jesus it is telling us to look beyond the things we seek to stop the hunger, the thirst, the mourning as they will never satisfy. We want the pain to go away find his path to joy. Jesus is telling us He is the way, the truth and the life and once we embrace his way of living all else will become less important for in Him, we will find how blessed we are to be loved by God.
Each reading today is challenging us to trust in the promises of God. If we trust his promises, we will stop trying to please him and begin to enjoy his love, his humor, his gifts. We will understand his heart and begin to understand who we are. Our joy will be found in living in His Kingdom. We do not have to turn away from the things this world offers us. It is extremely satisfying to be loved by your spouse and children. Jobs should be extremely satisfying, and we should gain pleasures through music, theater, art, nature, hobbies and friends. Those things are part of living in the Kingdom of God and we should find joy in indulging in them.
But to depend on them to bring security of happiness will only disappoint us and leave us seeking more from them. It is not wrong to enjoy marriage, the birth of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is not wrong to enjoy our jobs and the benefits from advancing in our careers. It is not wrong to look forward to graduation and that first job or that first pay check. It is also not wrong to grow old and to look back on the accomplishments attained during a lifetime. It is not wrong to grow financially, educationally, professionally but doing so should not be because we believe they will satisfy that hunger for meaning in life.
Who we were created to be is not found in what we do and that is where we get off track. We have been deceived to believe what we do will bring us the ultimate in satisfaction. We were created to find intimacy with God and allow His plan for our life to unfold in a way that in all we do and say we acknowledge Him. Everything we do makes more sense if we discover our identity in Christ and bring that identity into everything we do. It is only then we can begin to understand why Jesus says we are blessed if we hunger, if we weep, if we mourn, if we are insulted. We are blessed because we feel His love, His approval, His protection, His counsel and we know we are not alone or abandoned as we face the pain of lost human love.
We need to allow his words to challenge our belief structure and remake our foundation, so we trust in Him not ourselves.