SUNDAY’S READINGS | February 13, 2022
There is a kind of awe inspired by the presence of strong and powerful people, even if they’re awash in corruption and depravity. Such people demand and command attention. Do not people routinely walk in the counsel of the wicked, linger in the way of sinners, take a seat among the scornful, just to feel the allure of power? We are fascinated by wealth, plenty, and the carefree smiles of those who rule over others.
It is so easy to forget that we are always among mere mortals, mere flesh, to whom we neither owe nor should give our ultimate trust. “Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals, and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). “They shall be like a shrub in the desert, … They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land” (Jer. 17:6). “They are like the chaff which the wind blows away” (Ps. 1:4). “The way of the wicked is doomed” (Ps. 1:6). In the time of sickness, and in the hour of death, every powerful person becomes poor, hungry, thirsty, frightened, and given to tears.
At the bottom, we are all the same, “in our weakness.” “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones” precisely for their good, for their admission again among a common humanity. Or, in the words of John Donne, “There we leave you in that blessed dependency, to hang your life on him that hangs upon the cross” (“Death’s Duel,” 1630).
What is the cross but a tree of life? This dependency is a gateway to all life and goodness. “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord …. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of the drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8). In the words of the Psalter, “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper” (Ps. 1:3).
In our need, we hear Jesus and come to him for healing. “They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and he healed all of them” (Luke 6:18-19). The poor came to him, the hungry, those who wept in sorrow, the hated, reviled, excluded, “the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Cor. 4:13, KJV). Such lives are grafted into the cross of Christ, and receive from him all life and salvation, a blessing that never runs out.
Turning to St. Ephrem, who is especially dear to Syriac Christians, we may feel how a blessed dependency is a boundless gift.
“The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. As the Apostle says: They ate spiritual food and they drank spiritual drink. … What you have received and attained is your present share, while what is left will be your heritage” (From a commentary on the Diatessaron).
There is always something more to receive and attain by the grace of God, provided we come in our need and with proper humility.
Look it Up: Jeremiah 17:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:19
Think About It: Mere flesh, mere mortals, and this life only are not enough to secure human life.