6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 6:17, 2-26
This weekend is within Ordinary Time. However, on Wednesday, the Church will observe Ash Wednesday.
These readings from Scripture might be seen as a prelude to Lent, or more directly, as an invitation to join in the observance of Lent.
For its first reading, this weekend’s liturgy presents a selection from the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah must have been intense in his personality. Certainly he was strongly committed to the task of being a prophet. He keenly felt that God had called him to be a prophet, and his calling evidenced God’s will for the salvation of the Chosen People.
Upsetting the story was the spiritual sluggishness, if not the downright sinfulness, of the people. Often the people strayed from God because instead of following God’s will, they followed the fads of the time or earthly leaders.
Jeremiah continually, and eloquently, insisted that true peace and well-being existed only by obeying God and by listening to God’s word in making decisions about life.
To use a simile, life can be like being alone in a wasteland. Knowing God, and following God’s will, however, provide an oasis.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians supplies the second reading. Paul’s two existing letters to them, both of which are in the New Testament, easily show us how challenging he found their tendency to accept the Gospel halfheartedly or with reservations.
In a way, it is understandable that they were difficult to convince and fully to convert. They lived in a city renowned across the Roman Empire for its material excesses. Being in such surroundings surely made attention to the spiritual foundations of the Christian Gospel less than quick and easy.
Paul calls the Corinthians to spiritual values. They alone endure, and they alone will satisfy.
For its last reading, the Church this weekend gives us a reading from St. Luke’s Gospel. This passage is part of the Synoptic Tradition. Similar readings are in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
Luke’s approach to religion was very similar to that of Jeremiah. Luke’s approach was urgent and bold. He minced no words. He cut to the chase, in modern day terms.
So, the situations in the life of Jesus that appealed to him were those in which the Lord was emphatic and the most direct. Such directness at times took the form of warnings, as is the case in the latter part of this reading, or on other occasions it appeared in a lesson or in a compliment.
Jesus makes very clear that true discipleship involves the spirit. The things of this earth come and go. In the end, all the things of this earth will go. Those people who set their sights on material goals, or live only for material advancements, do so at their own peril.
The Church in this liturgy, and through these readings, prepares us for Lent. By definition, Lent will be a time of reflection, but it will be a reflection in which — to be beneficial for us — we must be completely focused and starkly realistic.
In these three readings, ending with the words of Jesus, the Church presents as the most fundamental facts the reality that earthly incentives are fleeting in survival and rest on quicksand.
Only the spirit is everlastingly alive. Only judgments based on spiritual motives have lasting effects. In these quite somber teachings, the Church leads us down no primrose path. It warns us that we are of the world, so the enticements of the world are especially appealing to us. Nevertheless, they can bring us only emptiness and maybe eternal death, if we do not turn to the Lord.
Choosing our future is our task. Lent is designed to assist us in making the choice.
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