‘Difficult seasons’ yield fruit with God
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Feb. 17
Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1:1-2,3,4 and 6; 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20; Luke 6:17,20-26
Author C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We want not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven, a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’” The unfortunate effect is that we are often not very tolerant of a God who does not content us. Because He does not submit His power to our every whim, no matter how noble we believe our request to be, we begin to doubt His reliability.
Because God cannot be conjured on command like a genie from a lamp, we are tempted to pledge our confidence to controllable things. Wealth, power, pleasure, honor, physical beauty — these are the things we tend to turn to when God seems unreliable, appearing more immediate, more concrete, and more potent in gaining what we want. And in doing so, our “heart turns away from the Lord” as we reallocate affection for God to “strength in flesh” and redirect our confidence in God to “trust in human beings.”
The problem is that they are all limited in what they can supply, because none of them are lasting. As Jesus emphasizes in our Gospel reading, those who are filled now will always find themselves hungry again. Those who laugh are not immune from future tears. And those who fill themselves with the riches of this life often condition themselves to be consoled by this alone, potentially leading to a spiritual hunger and sorrow. For heavenly life is driven by an altogether different currency — the riches of grace and charity. As St. Paul writes in our second reading, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.”
Because Christ is resurrected, we can have certitude that those who are hungry now will be satisfied, that those who mourn now will be comforted, that those who weep now will laugh in heaven.
St. Paul says both to illustrate that the one who “seeks strength in flesh” (in the temporary) is foolish and to explain that doubt of Christ’s resurrection (a growing problem for his audience) dismantles the power of the entire Gospel. If Christ has not been raised, all of His claims are immediately proven invalid. Salvation is left incomplete, our redemption from sin insecure, and the hope of heavenly life shattered. Christ’s resurrection is the assurance of all these things, the assurance that Jesus is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Because Christ is resurrected, we can have certitude that those who are hungry now will be satisfied, that those who mourn now will be comforted, that those who weep now will laugh in heaven.
Nearly every reading this Sunday speaks of the “blessed.” “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,” declares Jeremiah. “Blessed the man who . . . delights in the law of the Lord,” announces the Psalmist. And Jesus proclaims a litany of “blesseds” in our Gospel. What defines them all is a resolute nearness to God and a hopeful expectation that “your reward will be great in heaven.”
God may not satisfy every whim that comes to our heart, no matter how upright and noble that desire may appear to us. But those are the times when we are faced with a choice — either steadfastly trust the Lord and His promises or turn our hearts away from Him and begin to trust in the things around us. Seasons will come — seasons of plenty and seasons of loss. They are unavoidable. The prophet Jeremiah makes clear that how we weather these seasons depends entirely on our disposition toward God. The one who trust in the Lord “fears not the heat when it comes” and “in the year of drought it shows no distress.” Its leaves stay green not because the Lord has prevented the heat or staved off the drought but because its roots are secure in the nourishment of the waters of grace, in the hope that “the kingdom of God is yours.”
Difficult seasons still come, but God produces fruit from them, nonetheless. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
SHAWN REEVES has served as the director of religious education at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign since 2001. He and his family attend St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Thomasboro.