The Old Testament reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah is utterly descriptive about people who trust in human beings, rather than the Lord. He describes the former people as “a barren bush, enjoying no change of season, standing in lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” Compare that to the latter—people who put their trust in God—“Blessed are you…like a tree planted beside the waters, not fearing the heat, its leaves stay green, in draught it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” This is a very clear depiction from a desert people who liken God to life-giving water!
In his First Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us how our faith is not in vain. Since Christ was raised from the dead, so shall we be too—blessed are we who hope in the Lord! According to St. Luke’s Gospel, our reward will be great in heaven, so rejoice and be glad! Do so because blessed are you poor, you hungry, you marginalized, and you who weep—that would be all of us…
When we put our trust and hope in the Lord, in God, we will not be spiritually thirsty and emotionally barren; instead we will be replete in the Lord’s abiding and abundant mercy, contented and gratified in his love, no matter what happens in our lives. The psalm response reflects the basic criterion for all three readings—it is the image, the paradigm and the example for the message we are meant to understand: “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” May we believe what we sing, and sing what we believe!
In a few short weeks, the season of Lent will be upon us (before we know it. Changes in our Liturgy and in our worship environment will take place that will reflect this new penitential season. Our sung acclamations change, and we will fast from the Gloria and all alleluias; we sing the Penitential rite (Lord have mercy). We will strive for the desert experience of Lent—no green plants, serious and sparse (yet rich) symbolism, all the vestments change to Lenten purple—Lent should make us “thirsty” for God.
Today, though, we sing: “Rejoice and be glad.” We hear the “Blesseds” of the Beatitudes—but today in the Gospel of Luke we also hear the “Woes.” As we head toward Lent, here is an idea: rather than give up something, maybe the challenge should be to do something positive for others. We, ourselves, need to be a blessing, rather than woe, for those around us. This is living the attitude of the Beatitudes we hear today; and living in the hope of growing closer to God. “Blessed are they who hope in God.” Food for thought…