THE PATH OF BLESSINGS OR CURSES – THE CHOICE IS YOURS
First Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-8
Responsorial Psalm 1:1-4,6
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20
Gospel Reading: Luke 6:17,20-26
In the field of Economics, we learned that “Opportunity Cost”, or “Alternative Cost” is a benefit or value of something that must be given up in order to acquire or achieve something else. Put differently, Opportunity Cost involves choice, which requires sacrifices. For example, if I’m pressed with the need for a pair of shoes and a shirt, but left with the resources to purchase either of the commodities. If I eventually settle for the pair of shoes; then, the alternative forgone is the shirt, which in other words, is the opportunity cost. Today, beloved friends in Christ, the Church places us at a crossroad between the paths of blessings and curses, chiefly dependent on our choices; of which our opportunity cost as Christians should be the path of curses. Apparently, it would sound awkward and bizarre for someone to choose the accursed path; however, the truism remains that a lot of persons comfortably tread on that path easily. A look at the readings would help us understand this reality better.
Beginning with the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah who existed in the sixth century (BC) presents us with a curse (cf. 17:5-6), juxtaposed with its opposite, a beatitude of blessing (cf. 17:7-8). Needless to say, a path for those who trust in men with a heart that turns away from God, in contrast with those who trust in the Lord, with the Lord for their hope. For Jeremiah, the former is cursed while the latter is blessed. Put differently, the former is like a dry scrub in the wastelands (in the parched places of the wilderness) in contrast with the latter – a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream – whose foliage stays green and never ceases to bear fruit. In this regard, when we choose God as our hope, our security, and our happiness, we will be blessed, truly happy – the blessed path. On the other hand, if we choose human standards for our guides, ourselves as our source of security, and the meeting of our own needs and desires as our happiness, we will find ourselves living in increasing misery and confusion, that is, in woe – the accursed path. Thus, the manner in which one personally exercises one’s freedom of choice will also determine the path of that individual.
The lesson of these two paths presented above is amplified in the Responsorial Psalm and expounded all the more in the gospel reading where Christ dynamically presents further examples as seen in the “Sermon on the Plain.” Here, Jesus reverses our “natural” assumption that happiness lies in riches, pleasure, comfort, and influence, and emphasizes the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution, not in themselves but in what they can do. He also challenges his listeners to find the fulfillment of all their needs in God, as also reflected in the Second Reading according to Paul, viz: “…If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people…” Therefore, our hearts as Christians must be “in heaven where Christ is, seated at God’s right hand.” (Col. 3:1). Above all, in the gospel, Jesus teaches that, although the poor are despised, resented, or pitied by the world, God loves them deeply in their poverty, their sadness, their hunger, and their deprived status. This is the basis of the “Preferential Option for the poor” that we are called to have.
Beloved friends in Christ, what path have we chosen to tread upon by our choice? Does our choice breed an opportunity cost/alternative forgone of the accursed path? Do we place our trust in God or do we choose to depend on our human limitations and standards? Do we despise the poor, abandoned, and persecute those who have God as their only hope? Are we contended in hardships, poverty, pain, suffering on account of the gospel? Today, we are called to see poverty, hardships, sufferings, etc., differently for (in the words of Dr. Hahn), “that’s the upside-down world of the Gospel: in poverty, we gain spiritual treasure unimaginable; in suffering and even dying ‘on account of the Son of Man,’ we find everlasting life.” Gathered at the Eucharistic table today, where we eat the Lord’s body and drink of his chalice, may we always be graced to realize the essence of drinking of his chalice and remaining on the path of true blessedness; for the adherents of the path of true blessedness are like a tree planted by the riverside, always flourishing and growing like a Lebanon cedar, and forever bearing fruits even when they’re old, full of sap, still green.
Written by Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora da Immaculada Conceição, Paulo Ramos, Maranhão, Brazil
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?