Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Jer 17:5-8 / Ps 1 / 1 Cor 15:12, 16-29 / Lk 6:17, 20-26
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
There are only two kinds of people – those with loaded guns and those who dig. That’s a line from Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Here’s another one – those who nibble corn on the cob in a circle, and those who nibble corn on the cob in a line. And my favorite, there are only two kinds of people in this world – those who load the toilet paper to pull from the back, and those who properly load it to go over the top. The whole idea is “us and them.”
Our culture wedges us into these camps; of either-or, us and them, and enhanced by our own tribal instincts, and by the computer logic of social media, these wedges are deepened and widened until sometimes we can’t understand each other at all. Our preferences in our real-life interactions simulate the artificial camps that are formed by our culture and technology. Many of us decide to give up and choose only to associate with people who think like us. With like-minded people, we form these ideological bubbles. It’s human nature to protect ourselves from discomfort and disagreement and uncomfortable conversations.
But these are secular considerations, worldly, Satan-supported forces, and they didn’t just appear in the 21st century. It’s always been a world of either-or and us-and-them. Maybe even more so in the time of Jesus, when He walked on the earth in and around Galilee. And certainly, this was the case in the gospel scene we hear today on that stretch of level ground, The Plain. This is Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Plain, the very beginning of it.
Last Sunday we heard Jesus talk to Simon Peter and ask him to put out fishing nets for a catch. Simon Peter was reluctant because he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. But at Jesus’s command, he lowered the nets, and he caught a great number (in some translations, a great multitude) of fish, so much that they had to get their partners from another boat to help them haul them in. After that, they left everything and followed Him.
In today’s gospel, just before what I have proclaimed, Jesus prayed all night on the top of a mountain. In the morning, He gathered all of His disciples and from them, He chose the Twelve. He Himself named them the Apostles, one who is sent or dispatched on a mission – that subset of the disciples that we know so well as the Twelve Apostles.
Then they came down – Jesus, the Twelve Apostles, and all the other disciples came down the mountain to the level place known as The Plain. And when they lowered themselves to The Plain, they found a great number of people; in some translations, a great multitude. These are the same words used last week about the fish. I think Jesus is hinting or encouraging another catch, this time of men.
In this great multitude was much diversity. They were the Apostles (the chosen Twelve), the disciples, Jews who believed, and Jews who were simply curious, city people, country people, rich people, poor people, healthy people and sick people, hungry people, even pagans – Greeks and gentiles from Tyre and Sidon who didn’t even know God. All of them came to Jesus from different places, along different paths and for different reasons, and yet we hear that He healed them all. He healed them all, even the ones who nibbled their corn in a circle.
Unlike our nature and our culture and Satan, Jesus unifies. He calls all people in all places in all times. His goal is to gather all people unto Himself. He doesn’t see two kinds of people in the world. He came to save us all. He wants people to aim for Him. He wants the Heavenly Kingdom to be our target, and He put His team together to help Him do just that – Team Apostle.
We hear that He raised His eyes toward His Apostles to give His first instruction, and His instructions are to go lower. He had prayed on the mountain (mountains represent closeness to God the Father), chose His Apostles, and then He came down and symbolically lowered Himself onto The Plain, where He would be level with the yuck and the muck of this world. Level with division, level with strife, poverty, and hunger, level with greed and pride and jealousy.
And then we read that He raised His eyes, so He went even lower to raise His eyes at the disciples, and He told them, “You will be poor, hungry, weeping, and hated.” And He told them that is a blessing (or happiness in another translation.) Then He also said that if you are rich, and full-bellied, and laughing, and well- liked, woe to you. Unhappiness to you. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been full and happy, I feel pretty good.
Jesus is teaching that worldly pleasures and worldly treasures are fleeting. They’re eternally worthless. He wants us to realize our utter and complete dependence on God for everything. We are not dependent on our wealth, on our intellect, and not on our talents. He is basically asking the question, “Do you trust in wealth or in the God that gave you that wealth?” His unifying message is not breaking us down into two opposing camps – rich vs. poor, laughers vs weepers, hungry vs. filled, because these descriptions are within each and every one of us to varying degrees, at varying times, and in varying ways.
We are all rich and poor. We all weep and laugh. We all are hungry and filled. We are all one in Christ, and that’s our direction, that’s where we ought to place our trust: in Him. Jesus desires to join us all together as one, in pursuit of everlasting, eternal happiness or blessedness, to focus and aim our hearts toward the heavenly kingdom. To aim high, high to the heavens, He’s asking us to go lower, to be the net that is lowered into the yuck and muck of the world. Be the net and spread wide and deep to reach a great multitude. Be the net that is lowered for others, to deliver Christ’s love and support to those behind and beyond.
Heavenly Father, I pray that if I can’t be a fisherman, please allow me to be a net, lowered for your catch. And if I can’t be the net, please allow me to be a fish, caught by your precious Son. Amen.