Jeremiah 17: 5-6I Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20Luke 6: 17, 20-26
It is reasonable to understand that during the two and half or so years of his ministry Jesus presented his basic teachings in different ways. What we heard today, for example, in St. Luke’s account of what we call the “Beatitudes”, is different than the more familiar format given by St. Matthew.
Both summaries of Jesus’ teaching, however, lay before us simple insights into a fuller appreciation of our relationship with our loving God that are found in the values that each expresses.
The challenge that Jesus offers to us, as it is recorded by St. Luke, reminds us that what society – the society of Jesus’ time or of our own time – often values most: wealth, security, pleasure, social approval, is meaningless, warrant rejection, and is really a source of woe, or grief.. On the other hand what society – either Jesus’ society or our own – fears or ignores or rejects: poverty, hunger, sadness, oppression, can truly be a source of blessedness, value and worth.
But why is this so, we might easily ask. It does not make sense to us. As we listen to God speak to us through the Scriptures today we can find the key to understanding the teachings of Jesus by considering the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Like Jesus, Jeremiah presents a contrast. He says that reliance on what is fleeting: wealth, food, satisfaction, human praise, makes a person like a barren shrub in the wasteland. It is present. It is visible. But it is dry, brittle and lifeless. Trust in God, confidence placed in God rather than in self and self-will and what we want and how we want it, will keep us going and give us hope. It will make us to be like a fruitful tree planted by water that does not fear heat or drought. It is alive and green.
Such trust and such hope Is not always easy. What is immediate, What is instantaneously gratifying. What is now. This is often more appealing. But what Jesus is teaching us is that we must open our eyes and broaden our perspective.
A further insight in this regard can be found in what we heard from St. Paul today. Some at Corinth had doubts about what was the basis for their faith in Jesus Christ: that he had overcome death and had risen from the dead. For some, what was immediate and what was evident appeared to be much more attractive. But as Paul points out, if that was all Jesus was teaching, if all he was concerned about was the here and now, and there was no conquest of death in resurrection, that teaching would be meaningless.
True value in life, true value in being alive now, finds its strength in faith in the Resurrection. No matter what we might face, even if it be poverty, hunger, loss or rejection, in whatever way we are united to the total gift of Christ on the cross, all is overcome by faith in he Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all is overcome by a firm conviction and trust in the endless presence of a good and gracious God.