Two Sundays ago we heard a reading from the great prophet Jeremiah, describing his prophetic calling; today we hear from him again, though this time in a moment when he is enduring a crisis of faith in his fellow man—both his countrymen and the foreigners to whom they turned for assistance. It is helpful to recall that Jeremiah lived in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Israelites’ painful exile from their homeland, in the late seventh and early sixth centuries BCE; his tone in today’s reading reflects the anguish of those days.
Jeremiah writes: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, he is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season…Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream…in the year of drought it shows no distress” (Jer 17:5-8). The Psalmist follows this line of thinking closely, advising: “Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked…but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night” (Ps 1:1, 2).
To be frank we ourselves live in a time when many of us look at others with the same sort of suspicion that Jeremiah had in his heart. Our suspicions may arise on account of scandal in society or within the Church, they may arise due to differences in backgrounds or cultural expectations, and they may even stem from divisions within our own families.
With the words of Jeremiah and the Psalmist appearing to reinforce and confirm our own cautious sentiments, and when in the political, cultural, and religious realms, no one seems to be worthy of trust, we might find ourselves asking “Who can we trust?” or “What should we do about our relationships, our communities, and our faith?”
For Christian believers, both Saint Paul’s advice in the second reading and Saint Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” in the gospel offer us the beginning of a response to these questions. First, Saint Paul urges the early Corinthian Christians to recognize that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead—the absolute foundation of Christian belief—transforms everything and overcomes even death, the greatest seeming threat to human existence: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Paul continues: “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:20, 22-23).
Paul is telling us that given our belief that Jesus won the definitive victory over sin and death once and for all, how much more should we trust that by living in him we will overcome all those things that contribute to sin and bring about the many “little deaths” we endure in the hard moments of life? Even if we cannot trust in some of the people in our lives, we can trust in Christ, and in those who truly dedicate themselves to him. Because he has overcome all things, we can too—in him.
Saint Luke affirms this lesson by reminding us that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who trust in the Lord, and trust as well in those who live faithfully in God: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours” (Luke 6:20). Putting our trust in God and in those who abide in him, let us not wither in a crisis of negativity but thrive in the grace and peace that is ours in Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Image: James Tissot