Grace to you!
You walk past a classmate or someone you know from childhood. The person looks younger and well nourished. Perhaps you work hard to be in shape and the person doesn’t. Here the person is looking like what you would’ve dreamed for yourself. You wonder: What is the secret?
From time to time, we ask this sort of question. We see a senior citizen who looks like we would love to look when we are aging. We ask, what is the secret?
Borderline, everyone wants to look younger and refreshed. Everyone wants to be like a leafy greenish garden. Everyone wants to blossom wherever they are, wherever they are planted. Anti-aging industries exploit this desire of ours. For good or for bad, they do.
God’s Word in Scripture has an incredible message for us today. It is delivered in a way that leaves us with an either-or-situation. It leaves us with a choice to make, a life-long commitment to consider. It proposes the secret of fruitiness, and spiritual blossoming. It offers the answer to lasting happiness as well as its opposite.
Prophet Jeremiah, announcing the word of God, declares it in a way that may be shocking to our modern sensitivities. Yet he doesn’t leave us to second guess concerning the meaning of the challenge.
He places absolute trust in people for our happiness and overall blessings as putting ourselves in the way of a cause (Jer 17:5). In other words, it is setting ourselves up for a colossal disappointment and failure.
One may quibble about how daring is the claim of the prophet. Or how archaic it may sound. Just like some laugh out loud concerning Jesus’ model of messiahship—the scandal of the cross and God’s forsakenness. Yet we know through life experiences that no one would ignore the reality of human slipperiness.
The issue isn’t only about the question of the variable quality of human reliability. It’s also a question of the unpredictability of human nature as a temporal being, as it is about how uncertain is the future. You may believe that your dad, mom, spouse, friend or relative, who has all the resources, would set you up on a road to incredible success. Such is naively presumptuous. Even if they mean well, they don’t have control over the future. One unforeseen change in their life could alter everything. Not to talk of how frail human beings can be and how many times their promises are disappointing. We tend to over promise and under perform.
Contrast this with the proposal of the prophet: “Blessed is the man (person) who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He (the person) is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer 17:7-8).
Such a person shares a common quality with the poor (Lk 6:20), in spirit, as the Gospel of Matthew specifies (Mt 5:3); whose hope, confidence is the Lord.
I love the metaphor of a tree planted by the water that sends its roots by the stream. In their commentary on this text, Barclay M. Newman Jr. and Philip C. Stine (2003), suggest that the stream could be better understood as a canal (p.403). You do not need to travel far to see how trees planted by the canal or aqueduct blossom. They have enough water to get rooted, flourish and produce plenty.
This biblical message corelates to the promise in Psalm 1. The Psalmist talks about the incredible blessings of trusting in the Lord, delighting in God’s law, and meditating on it. In other words, the person is walking in the light of God’s word and promises. Such a person, the Psalmist says, is “like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps 1:1-3).
Saint Thomas Aquinas was spot on when he identified this stream of water with the grace of God which reaches us in Christ (Aquinas, Commentary on Psalm 1). It is the Spirit of the Christ. As the Lord Jesus speaking of himself declares: “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38-39).
The Lord Jesus, from whom this “rivers of living water flows”, offers us an uncommon path to flourish. The plan mapped for us contrasts with the ways we tend to imagine success. As usual, the Lord offers a revolutionary and yet absolutely true and reliable blueprint for blessedness. Blessings are tied to God’s kingdom and enduring value. Lack of blessings isn’t in being materially poor, or unpopular or rejected by people. It is much more. (Read the message in Luke 6:20-26). Ultimately, the Lord sheds light on the blessing of anchorage in God and blessings rooted in God’s reign and grace.
Trusting in God is being solidly rooted in the canal of grace. It is being guaranteed of true happiness and joy and peace and blessing. People change. Life changes. Our physical health and body may give way. Friends and family may flounder. The Lord never fails. God’s grace abides.
Blessed is anyone who trusts in the Lord. Trust in the Lord is our flourishing.
May God gives us the grace of being rooted in Divine Word and promises. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[6th Sunday Ordinary Time C: Jer 17:5-8; I Cor 15:12, 16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.