6th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ Sunday 13 February 2022 ~ Bible readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 17: 5 – 8; Responsorial: Psalm 1; II: I Corinthians 15: 12, 16 – 20; Gospel: Luke 6: 17, 20 – 26

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Blessing or Woe? The readings we share from the Bible this Sunday clearly proclaim that God places before us and, before all humanity a question of very basic yet eternal magnitude. Will we bother to discern and decide whether a course of action we make will bring God’s blessing or the woes that befall those who choose to turn away from following God? The image above is from an ancient castle and shows a classic opening from which defending archers would shoot their arrows at attacking enemies. It brutally shows a place of blessing or a place of woe, depending on the perspective of the individual. It also shows another paradox. The cross was a place for the accursed, a place of ultimate woe and despair. But it also illustrates that the cross is for the follower of Christ the place of life, light, and hope. It helps us realize our call, daily, to choose the blessings of God or the woes of unbelief.

Sermon on the Plain by Karely Ferenczy

In our Gospel for today, we read Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain. It has many points of similarity with the more prominent Sermon of the Mount found in Matthew’s gospel (Chapters 5-7). But it also proclaims some clear differences. Those realities point to how Jesus sought and taught to share the Gospel in places and ways relevant and fresh for the times and hearts of the listeners. The illustration above also bears this out rather well. We see Jesus teaching on a gentle plain to a crowd of listeners dressed in the fashions of the day of the artist, Karaly Ferenczy. It reminds us that God’s Word, whether heard for the first time millennia ago or read and shared today is meant, by the Holy Spirit to be fresh, relevant, empowered for now. Or, said more directly, God’s intends and desires that His blessings be fresh and alive in our lives now. And it affirms that unbelief and choices made against God will result in unavoidable sorrows and woes unless repentance and conversion are graces presently alive in our life. The grammatical present tense of the Gospel today is clear. God would speak to our hearts… today if we will listen.

There is for some folks a tendency or even a temptation to make God into their image, their understanding of who God should be and what God should be like. This is indicated by the tendency to focus only on the blessings believed God wants us to have, or those blessings according to whom and how we may think God should distribute them. We also may be inclined to avoid or dismiss any real realization of the woes that God would pronounce. Or, again certain woes would be recognized and affirmed mainly against those who may differ from our understanding and place in our faith.

But God’s Word is quite clear. The blessings of God are predicated by our faith and seeking to live in the ways of God proclaimed in Scripture. They are not dependent on our circumstances, or our feelings. They are from God and exceed, infinitely the lesser matters of worldy attitudes and status. Likewise, the sorrows and woes coming from choices against God will come, unless repentance is embraced, and human wisdom, power and ability will not enable us to escape from the results of rebellion. The options God would share are clear. But as the refrain from the Psalm proclaims, “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.”

It is worthwhile to note the crowd to whom Jesus spoke that day on the plain. There were people from: “Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.” (Lu. 6:17). Jesus was addressing Jews and Gentiles, devout Hebrews, and undoubtedly souls of weaker or even other faiths if the demographics are understood. He was making it clear our social or spiritual status, no matter how important or prominent was not important. What was important was the heart for God and each other.

Every day we are called by the Holy Spirit to choose between blessing and woe. This is often most understood regarding ourselves and that is valid. We are called to discern between actions and words, places and even people that influence our lives. Are our choices empowering and bringing God’s blessings of His peace, hope, mercy, forgiveness and love. Are we growing richer in the blessings of heaven even if our worldly struggles exist or grow? In the most basic and clear way, are we choosing Christ, to grow in His will and closer in His Presence?

As we grow in blessing, as we grow in Christ we will learn that these blessings and woes will be shared with others. Do my words, actions and focus bring God and God’s blessings more intimately into the lives of others? Or do they result in wounds, doubts, fear, and cause others to distance themselves from God’s people and God? Again, as always the context of Scripture is essential to see. Jesus was facing the doubt-filled ignorance and hate of the Pharisees and scribes growing in their challenges against Christ. Yes, they were very religious. They knew the Scriptures, rules, and traditions of their religion but they knew not God when He stood before them. Instead of using their faith to grow closer and bring others closer to God, they focused instead on using their spiritual knowledge as hammers and wedges dividing, wounding, and assaulting the faith of others. The premise of might makes right fueled the abuses of persecution, spiritual hunger, hate, and sorrow. While their ultimate woes may not be recognized their inevitability was made clear by Jesus.

Blessing or Woe? These are choices we must make in our daily and ongoing journey for God and His Kingdom. We realize we each have made woe-filled choices. What is our Hope? We see it in the first image, the cross of Christ where we leave our failings, woes, and sinful decisions to God’s mercy and forgiveness. What of our sorrows, wounds, and hopes for God’s blessings? We find the, again, at His cross, in His Presence. And we especially grow in God’s Real Presence in the Holy Spirit, The Word of God, and the Eucharist. May the place of greatest blessing, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ help us to grow as a people sharing those blessings and freeing this world from the many woes which we may face.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Jesus on the cross by Simon Bisley