True riches and poverty – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dives in misery and Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham (illustration from a 15th century Book of Hours.

Central idea: True poverty and riches. Doctrine: Poverty of heart and Christ’s grief over the rich. Practical application: Growing in detachment.

To view Lectionary 78, click here.

Central idea: True poverty and riches

Reading 1 Jer 17:5-8

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
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:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.

  • We can personally know the truth of Jeremiah’s words by observation and experience.
    • We can see that there is one way of living that promises earthly happiness but leaves us empty. 
    • We can also see that there is a way of living that promises eternal happiness, seems to deny us some earthly happiness, and gives us an underlying joy.  
  • A good way to interpret the stream in Jeremiah’s image is to think of it as divine grace. God’s grace is both a share in his life and a help in living the way He wants us to live. 

Responsorial Psalm Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6 

R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked,
nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
but delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.

He is like a tree
planted near running water,
that yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.

Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.

  • The message of this psalm is that of Jeremiah’s oracle. There are two ways of living, one good, one wicked. It is foolish to follow the wicked way and wise to ponder God’s law and live it. 

Reading 2 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20

Brothers and sisters:
If Christ is preached as raised from the dead,
how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain;
you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

  • Christ has risen from the dead and he is the pioneer who will raise those who come after him from the dead. For us, if we have faith, if we follow him, death is not annihilation but just a falling asleep to wake to eternal life. 
    • This is why whatever struggles we endure on the journey of our life is worth the destination, the goal, and the reward. 
  • Our entire Catholic faith rests on the truth that Christ has risen from the dead. St. Paul is very realistic in saying that if He has not risen, then we are only to be pitied. 
  • But, as St. Paul insists, “Christ has been raised from the dead.” The eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection were willing to live and die for the truth that they saw with their own eyes. 

Gospel Lk 6:17, 20-26

Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”

  • People had come from all over Israel to hear what Our Lord had to say, but he ‘looked’ at his disciples when he announced the great reversal that would one day occur. If they suffer any evil now because of their allegiance to Him, they will be repaid with great blessings in heaven. 
  • Then Christ addressed his listeners who had some form of happiness in this life based on doing evil. They too would be repaid, but with corresponding evils in the next life.
  • We can look to the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as an example of this reversal of fortune. 
  • If we can correctly read the signs of the times, faithful Catholics have a lot to rejoice over, because “people [will] hate you, and . . . exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.” 

Doctrine: Poverty of heart and Christ’s grief over the rich

  • In order to enter the Kingdom of heaven, we must be detached from riches (CCC 2544). 
    • Riches certainly include money and property, but also pertains to everything we value: for instance, talent, skill, knowledge, appearance, family, and friends. 
    • “Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone” (CCC 2544).
  • We must be willing to set all these good things aside so as not to “be hindered in [our] pursuit of perfect charity” (CCC 2545). Why? The reason is that in this life, charity is acting for the true good, even if it requires sacrifice. If charity is our goal, then the goods of creation are subordinate to charity and are either a means to that end or in opposition to it. 
  • Detachment from goods helps us understand the beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (CCC 2546). Those who have renounced all their “goods” now see everything as a gift from God and as belonging to Him, not our own property. 
  • Christ, being God, is the origin and the “owner” of every possible good, yet “for [our] sakes he became poor” (2 Cor 8:9, quoted in CCC 2546). 
  • Christ “grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods. (CCC 2547).

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.

  • Commenting on Our Lord’s words, St. Augustine said, “Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. in monte 1,1,3: PL 34,1232; quoted in CCC 2547).

Practical application: Growing in detachment

  • All that is mine is yours. To live the virtue of detachment from goods when we feel their sting, we can adopt the aspiration, “All that is mine is yours” (Lk 15:31). These are the words of the father of the prodigal son, which he spoke to his older, faithful son. When we speak them to God, they have two meanings. 
    • First is the truth that everything I might think is mine, and so might want to hold on to, actually comes to me from God. So literally, “All that is mine is yours.” 
    • Second is the offering of every good entrusted to me back to God. Thus, this is a short version of the famous prayer of St. Ignatius, the Suscipe:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.

  • Almsgiving. One fundamental way of becoming detached from goods, while simultaneously serving, others is almsgiving. What we can give as alms to others in any need include our time, talents, and treasure. 
  • Mortification. Another way to grow in detachment is through dying to ourselves. 
    • Passive mortificationsare accepting and offering to God those evils that come upon us. They can be tiny pinpricks or significant sufferings. They can be anything we get that we don’t want. 
    • Active mortificationsare things we do voluntarily that go against our basic wishes to enjoy pleasure and avoid pain or to enhance our pride. 
    • St. Josemaria Escriva gives us interior examples of both kinds of mortification in point 173 of The Way.

That joke, that witty remark held on the tip of your tongue; the cheerful smile for those who annoy you; that silence when you’re unjustly accused; your friendly conversation with people whom you find boring and tactless; the daily effort to overlook one irritating detail or another in the persons who live with you . . . this, with perseverance, is indeed solid interior mortification.

The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

  • CCC 1820: Christian hope begins in the giving of the Beatitudes
  • CCC 2544-2547: poverty of heart; the Lord grieves over the rich
  • CCC 655, 989-991, 1002-1003: hope in the Resurrection
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