The First Reading is from the Prophet Jeremiah. It contrasts the wicked who trust in human beings and the righteous who trust in God. The former are compared to a barren desert shrub; the latter to a fruitful tree planted beside a flowing river. This reading prepares us for the Gospel, where Jesus declares the poor blessed. The poor are the ‘little ones’ who have no one to trust in but God.
In the Gospel passage from Luke, we have his version of the Beatitudes, four Beatitudes and four woes. It is called the sermon on the plain. Here Jesus mingles among the people, apostles, disciples and non-disciples, rich and poor, those in sorrow and those in happier times of their life. People are coming to him with all kinds of diseases and he stops and says something startling; “Blessed are you who are poor, you who are hungry, you who are weeping, blessed are you when people are speaking against you because of me…..”Then the Lord says something even more alarming: “Woe to you who are rich, you who are satisfied, you who are joyful, woe to you when people are speaking well of you…”All of this is the opposite of what they expected and what we expect to hear.
When the Lord says “Blessed” are you poor, hungry and so forth. He is not saying to those who are burdened by life that their life is ideal, far from it. The Lord is teaching that there is a truth within their circumstances, a strength they do not realise. Within the tragedy of their lives is a hidden grace.
When the Lord says, “Woe to you who are rich, popular, healthy.” He is saying that there is a hidden danger in their lives.
Back to Jeremiah. What nourishes our life? Is it the sand or the stream? Lent is around the corner. It is a good time for all of us to sink our roots into the deep, clear waters of God’s life again. A time to renew our faith and practice in the Lord.