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Reflection on the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on February 13, 2022, by Johanna Brian SL

A couple of weeks ago, Eleanor Craig introduced me to a treasure trove of books containing theological, pastoral, exegetical and homiletical perspectives on the Sunday readings.  Delving into these books was like trying to take a drink from a firehose.  I did, however, find much good food for thought. My words today will be an interweaving of my own ponderings with insights gleaned from these sources. Discipleship continues to be the focus of our readings today.

In the first reading, Jeremiah repeats the message that he has preached consistently.  In a nutshell, he says that nothing less than whole hearted and totally wakeful attention to God is worth anything. He warned that the Babylonian Captivity was coming and that “exile” would become the new normal. That message is still relevant for us today as we continue to experience exile from a time and place where social justice, racial equality and ecological stability are a normal part of life. In fact, with the passage of time and the political instability of the world, these wonderful ideals seem to be slipping farther away instead of coming closer.

How can we cope in these challenging times? Jeremiah offers us two possibilities. We can choose to be a barren bush, a shrub, planted in the desert. As such we will endure the onslaughts of conflicting information, allurements and negative energy generated by the struggle of powerful entities to gain and maintain control of resources and power. In this mode, we are totally dependent on the quality of our own filters to detect authentic truth, and we can easily become the victims of anger, fear, frustration, despair, hopelessness and the many other woes mentioned in today’s Gospel.

Or, instead of being a shrub, we could choose to be a tree planted by the water.  Trees can withstand drought and storms. Trunk, branches and leaves are seen; root tentacles seeking hidden nutrients and stability in deep subterranean places cannot be seen. Trees bring forth shade, beams, food, nests and dazzling beauty.  Trees don’t move or change focus. Trees glorify God by being trees!

Our Gospel offers us an even deeper insight into the process of being a truly committed disciple — a more deeply rooted tree.  Jesus came down from the mountain with the Twelve. There, on level ground, with a special focus on them, he spoke of the eight beatitudes. These words are not meant to be a moral code for all.  They are transformational. They are not to do; they are to become. Living into these words will not be the result of personal effort but of cooperation with divine grace — a gift of the Spirit. This is radical theology that turns the wisdom of the world upside down. They bear witness to the truth that only the destitute poor and hungry who understand the reality of their situation are truly disposed to entrust themselves to God’s care with a firm and vibrant faith that yields this kind of happiness. People who have worked with the poorest of the poor often tell us this. For the majority of us, a sincere commitment to an authentic and rigorously simple lifestyle coupled with a total rejection of unbridled materialism and commercialism that is also backed up with action-oriented solidarity with the poor can be a step in the right direction.   

The fact that Jesus directed these words to the Twelve suggests that this level of commitment to values related to poverty and simplicity might best be realized and  lived into through participation in communities of lifelong partnerships: eucharistic fellowships with  persistent prayer and honest dialogue along with sincere efforts to be of service in deeply committed actions. It calls for a willingness to be the called among the called among the called.  For me, bestirring myself to get more deeply involved with the working groups of Loretto Link is an example of this kind of call to a deeper and wider circle of intentional involvement. Clearly, the moral realm is basically a community concern. A teacher I once had told us that God only has a group plan. Living the beatitudes is a source of abundant blessings to be experienced most fully by those who realize that God is the God of those who know they have no one but God. Whether we  acknowledge it or not, that is basically true for everyone.  No one of us has any entitlement which separates us from the poorest of the poor.

In closing I would like to return once again to the tree planted by the water. Last Sunday, Elaine Marie Prevallet pointed out that Jesus invites us to leave the shallows and move to deeper water if we want to have an effective ministry in the lives of people. The second reading today assures us that the power of the Resurrection inundates the whole of creation and that our willingness to live and work at this deeper level of trust is the hallmark of fruitful discipleship.  From that place of deep connection with God, we are promised the grace-filled abundant life which overflows with the blessings and joy of the “be-attitudes.”  Amen. Alleluia.  


Johanna Brian SL

Johanna came to Loretto from Colesburg, Ky., which is just over the hill from Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky. She attended Bethlehem Academy and Loretto Academy in Kansas City, Mo. She also attended Webster University and St. Louis University. Twenty-six of her 38 years of teaching were spent in El Paso, Texas, where she taught English and religion. For the past 25 years, Johanna has been on the staff at The Healing Place in Louisville, Ky., helping women to recover from alcoholism and drug addictions. Since moving to Loretto Motherhouse a few years ago, she has been having a great time participating in all that is going on there.
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