Homily for February 17

Homily for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Curses and blessings - blessings and woes!
And as soon as we hear these words
many of us will think of and turn to circumstances in our lives
which we have experienced and named as a blessing or curse.

And the temptation is to think that somehow
it's God who has chosen to bless or curse us:
to imagine that God looks down upon us all
with a bag of blessings in one hand
and a bag of woes in the other
showering them upon us, letting them fall where they might.

Or the temptation to think, worse yet,
that with divine accuracy,
God aims blessings at some and curses at others,
as he chooses,
never failing to hit his intended target - for good or for ill!

But who would want to believe in such a God?
Who would want to follow such a God?
Not Jeremiah.  Not Jesus.  Not me and, I presume - not you.

Jeremiah writes of curses and blessings, making it clear
that those who seek blessings
need to plant themselves, their lives and their choices -
near the waters of the Lord and his Word.

And he makes equally clear that those who put their trust
in human invention and in their own strength,
may well find themselves parched and withered
for having settled and rooted themselves
apart from the cool streams of the Lord’s peace.

The blessings and curses here are not prizes and punishments
sent from God to reward or chastise us.

Jeremiah’s noonday desert sun beats down on all of us.

This is not about being spared
the mid-day heat of problems and difficulties,
of burdens and grief,
but rather it’s about where, how and from whom
we seek survival
from our woes and the gift of God’s choicest blessings.

Certainly, after this past week,
the whole Catholic Church might ask
 “Has our history, with all its successes and failures,
has our history shown us to be rooted in God and God’s ways
or has the Church in serious ways sold itself out
for the wrong reasons, at the expense of the innocent.

What matters here is:
where we choose to be planted,
what waters we choose to drink,
and in whose truth we choose to put down our roots.

So it is, that those who appear to be "cursed"
by the woes of sickness, poverty, oppression, need and hurt
might, in their heart of hearts experience refreshment
from drinking deeply of the water of the faith in God.

And so it is, then, that those who appear to be “blessed”
by health, wealth, privilege, success and fame
might, in their heart of hearts, face a barren emptiness,
and a thirst for blessings
that wealth and success can never bring.

We’re often told to “grow where we’re planted”
which is good advice if we’re careful about
where we plant ourselves,
what waters we drink
and in whose wisdom  we sink our roots.

These scriptures invite us
(the whole Church, our parish and ourselves as individuals)
- to see if our choices lead us to blessings or woes;
- to test the soil in which we’ve planted our hopes and dreams;
- to seek the flowing stream that truly quenches
our hearts’ deepest thirsts;
- and to put our trust and hope not in ourselves  
- but in faith in God.

On the Cross, not even Jesus was shielded
from the heat, the pain, the thirst of the noon-day sun -
but he trusted in God.
And he trusted in God
even when there seemed to be absolutely no reason left
- to trust in God...

From his side, from his trust, from his love
there flowed the blessing of the saving waters
that promise to nourish and refresh us.

In the gift of the Eucharist at this altar,
the sacrifice of the Cross is made our supper
and in the food of this table
is the healing of all our woes
and the greatest blessing that can be ours.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose hope is in the Lord, their God.


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