February 17, 2019 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Deacon Steve whiteman

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 JER 17:5-8

Responsorial Psalm PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6
R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Reading 21 COR 15:12, 16-20

Alleluia LK 6:23AB

Gospel LK 6:17, 20-26

17 Feb 2019                                                                  How deep are my roots?

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our 1st reading and Psalm today reminds me of a strong storm we had in July, 2017. We had very strong straight-line winds that blew down hundreds of trees in the area.

Some downed trees were large and filled the streets with their remains. It was sad to see the tall beautiful trees, that had weathered storms for many decades, get ripped out of the ground by their roots.

We know the type of roots a tree has depends upon its environment. If the tree has an easy time getting moisture from frequent rains, it’s roots don’t have to grow very deep. That may have been the problem for many of the trees that blew over in the big storm. The strong winds were able to pull the shallow roots out of the muddy soil and downed the tree.

If we look at the opposite situation where the tree roots don’t have easy access to moisture they are required to work harder. In these adverse conditions, the roots have to branch off and go deeper to get the water and nutrients they need. By enduring dry weather or bad soil, the root structure becomes stronger and the tree grows more tolerant of drought and high winds.

So how does this trivia about tree roots apply to our readings today?

Our first reading gives us the beautiful metaphor comparing a fruitful tree to a person “who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.” Jeremiah tells us this tree “fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green. In the year of the drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”

If we reflect on this metaphor and consider our own faith life we may want to ask ourselves: How deep are my roots?

When we face challenges in our life, do we try to get by on our own to survive or are we able “trust in the Lord” and let His will be done?

When we experience a personal tragedy, do we try to escape our problems or turn to God and ask Him to give us a stronger faith and deeper roots?

As it turns out Jesus gives us some guidance in the Gospel today with the Beatitudes. In the Beatitudes He turns the world’s understanding of happiness upside down.

If the Beatitudes sound different today it’s because Luke’s Gospel gives us a slightly different version compared to Matthew. Beatitude comes from a Latin word meaning a state of blessedness. Luke’s Gospel includes 4 Beatitudes and 4 warnings from Jesus. These “woes” or warnings of a coming judgment help us to understand the risk of relying on ourselves instead of God. They remind us of the cursed man in our first reading:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD.”

The Beatitudes help us prioritize our lives. They help us put things in their proper place so we can rely on God instead of ourselves. There is a place for money, food, laughter and praise in our lives but they can’t be our highest priority.

If we find that we have adequate money and food we should give thanks. If it’s easy for us to laugh or if we receive praise from others we should be grateful, but not be overly distracted by those concerns. Our spiritual lives cannot be satisfied without making God a priority and relying on Him every day.

On the other hand…if our lives seem to experience one disaster after another we may find comfort in the Beatitudes. If we turn to God and rely on Him during a personal tragedy our faith will be blessed and made stronger. By offering up our hardships in life, we can grow in faith and send those spiritual roots deeper into the ground so it’s easier for us to weather the next storm.

When we rely on God instead of ourselves we can find true freedom. We can find freedom from the non-essential distractions in this world and focus on more important things. St. Francis of Assisi found this to be true during his life. He said that “Holy Poverty puts to shame all greed…and all the anxieties of this life.”

With Ash Wednesday just a few weeks away we may want to start thinking about our plans for Lent this year. Lent is a great time to reflect on our lives and how we deal with distractions. With proper planning and effort, our Lent can help us rely more fully on God in our daily life. The usual suggestions of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent are important but we should consider our personal situation.

·       If we are distracted by financial concerns, focus more on donating to charity.

·       If we have physical or electronic distractions, consider a regular schedule of fasting. and

·       Be aware of our prayer life. A daily routine rooted in regular prayer may be the best way to grow in our faith.

Keep an eye out for other Lenten opportunities coming up in the bulletin.

As we think about the challenges in the coming week, let our roots of faith be nourished by the Eucharist and rely on God for strength during the next storm. 

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