The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Jeremiah 17:5-8 + 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20 + Luke 6:17,20-26
February 13, 2022
“Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!”
It’s hard to confuse the choices presented in today’s Scripture readings. The sharp contrast between the blessings and maledictions proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah and our Lord Jesus offer only two choices: life or death, blessing or woe. Even more important, though, is the fact that the Christian’s choice must be rooted in the divine virtue of hope. “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord”, we proclaim in today’s Responsorial Psalm.
But are we blessed? Do we hope in the Lord? What do we hope for in life? The answers to these questions lay bare our future: not only in this life, but also in the life to come. The things that we hope for in life make clear what we can hope to expect in our future. Saint Paul in the Second Reading preaches that the Christian can hope only in the resurrected Christ. The Christian centers his life around the Death and Resurrection of the Messiah, holding them as the pattern of his thoughts, words, and actions. In other words, whenever we hope for something in this life, we should hope as Jesus hoped for things during His life.
We only need one example to get at the heart of how Jesus hoped during His earthly life. We need only picture Jesus at one setting in His life: as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, moments after His Last Supper, and moments before His betrayal and arrest. Jesus had two choices to pray over in the Garden. He had two different things He could hope for. He could hope to escape the destiny that was walking towards Him at that moment, with spears and silver pieces in hand. Or He could hope to die.
In our own daily lives, if Christ truly lives in us, we live in Him as members of His Body. His Death and Resurrection are our own, if they are our hope. Of course, most of us have no difficulty hoping for resurrection in our lives, but can we hope to share in His suffering as well? We may grow used to accepting suffering as a natural part of life, but can we prayerfully hope for it?
In his Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross writes: “Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire.”
When we come to this matter of the spiritual life, we have to be very careful. Of course, it would be foolishness to hope for suffering for its own sake. Jesus did not will His Suffering and Death on the Cross for its own sake. The only thing He ever hoped for in life was to do the Will of His Father. But as He prayed in Gethsemane, He knew that His Father willed for Him to die on the Cross.
Whatever we hope for, we hope in the Lord. It is not for us to parcel out for ourselves a little suffering here, and a little resurrection there. The only thing we can hope for in our lives is the Will of our Father in Heaven, and often we are not given to learn what that is far in advance. Often God asks us to walk step by step through our lives, dependent upon Him each day. Consider the wisdom of St. Francis de Sales, who said, “We in this life are walking, as it were, on ice.” At times, we have no idea how thick or thin that ice is. At times, it seems we are not merely walking but skating on thin ice.
As Christians, we look to the Cross and worship Christ crucified. We know that His death means our life. But to grow in our spiritual lives means to realize that at times, our own spiritual suffering is a great source of growth. At times, neither of the choices which we find ourselves facing in life seem to hold much hope. But as we pray and ask God to guide us, we cannot expect God always to show us “the light”. At times, God simply shows us where to walk, and that place may not be any brighter than where we’ve just come from.