What We Live For

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We’re doing some renovation in the church for the next few weeks so we’re having Mass in the gym where we don’t have any recording equipment. So, until then I’ll post written versions of my sermons.

All three of our readings for today go together to help us think about a simple but fundamental question: what makes life worth living? Or put another way, what am I living for? What is the deepest source of joy, peace, satisfaction in life? And these readings for today all agree that it’s our faith in God that makes life worth living, and there’s nothing in this life, no matter how good it may be, that can take the place of our relationship with God.

In our first reading, the prophet Jeremiah states is so beautifully. He says, “Cursed is the one…whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert.” But on the other hand, “blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…he is like a tree planted beside the waters…it fears not the heat when it comes…in the year of drought it shows no distress.” This is one of those Scripture passages that are so good at getting right to the point. It’s asking all of us: what kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be someone whose life is built on trust in God, or not? Something else to think about: notice it doesn’t say, “the one who trusts in God will never experience heat and drought.” No, it says the one who trusts in God will be able to handle those difficulties when they come. We live in a fallen world. Times of difficulty and sorrow, times of spiritual dryness—we all go through them. And what God promises is not that we won’t have to go through them, but that by his grace we’ll have the strength to make it through them, to grow and become better because of them.

Then in the second reading, again keeping it so simple and to the point, St. Paul says this: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” Why do we put our hope and trust in Christ? What is our faith in Jesus for? Well, it’s not ultimately about the blessings that come from it in this life. And those blessings are real, don’t get me wrong. There’s real joy, peace, love, and goodness that come from our faith in Jesus that we experience here and now. But our faith isn’t only about here and now. It’s about our salvation. It’s about making it to heaven one day. And in this life there’s struggle, and failure, and persecution, and sadness, and sickness, and death. Our faith in Jesus doesn't make us exempt from any of that. Our faith carries us through those realities in this life, by giving us the ability to focus on heaven, our true home.

And then in the Gospel, we hear Jesus’ own words about all this. He says, “blessed are you who are poor, who are hungry, who are weeping, when people hate, exclude, insult you.” What does Jesus mean? How can those things be blessings? Well, they’re blessings to the extent that if you experience those things, you’re forced to look deeper that the joys and comforts of this life for your happiness. They’re blessings in that sense, because they push you to see the happiness that comes, not from external circumstances being just right, but from God. And then Jesus turns it around. He says, “woe to you who are rich, who are filled now, who laugh now, when all speak well of you.” Probably some of the most challenging words Jesus ever spoke. And I don’t think we have to take it as Jesus picking on people who happen to have a certain amount of money or a certain standard of living. But he’s saying none of those things, in themselves, can get you to heaven. No amount of money, or power, or comfort, or reputation can replace God. And I think we all need to be reminded of that sometimes.

Such a simple message in these readings today, but one we all need to hear. Life is worth living. And it’s our faith in God that makes it worth living. So if I’m not living for God, what am I living for?

1st Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-8

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 1:1-2, 3,4,6

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20

Gospel: Luke 6:17, 20-26