Today’s First Reading, Responsorial Psalm and Gospel all proclaim to be “blessed” the one who hopes and trusts in God. The things of this world, even those which appear to be the most strong and enduring, like the world itself, will all pass away. There is nothing “of earth” which will not someday fail us. Only God, who is eternal, will never let us down. He alone can give us true happiness, a fulfillment which, like God himself, is eternal.
The First Reading and Responsorial Psalm both use the image of the tree planted near running water as a symbol of the person who trusts in God. Some trees, with their deep roots and sturdy trunks, live to be hundreds of years old. Once they reach maturity, they do not appear to change, especially the evergreens. Deciduous trees appear dead in the winter, but reawaken each spring. Even in what appears to be death, the man of faith has hope, “because Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (Second Reading)
While we are in the “dead of winter,” in two and a half weeks we willenter again into the liturgical seasons of death and resurrection: Lent and Easter. Through this we are reminded that death is but a “falling asleep.” Because death is “of earth” and not “of heaven,” it does not last forever, despite its appearance to the contrary. After all, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Here is a little personal historical note that came to my mind last Sunday after Mass when Jim Harings told me that he and Ginger would be married 50 years the day after Valentine’s Day, which I realized was February 15, 1969. I recalled that I served for a wedding Mass in my home parish on that day, which was a Saturday. The next day I was the lector for Mass for the first time. This was a new ministry for lay people at the time and I was one of the first lectors in the parish. I was a freshman in high school. That Sunday happened to be Sexagesima Sunday, which is no longer in the liturgical calendar. I remember that because it had the longest epistle of any Sunday of the year. If you have an old missal, look it up. I was really excited to get to do that long reading, but I also remember that my knees were shaking while I was reading it. The parish priest, by the way, was Father Jeremiah Cashman.
We could always use some more lay readers in our parishes. Aside from being good readers, diocesan policy recommends that they be confirmed. Let me know if you are interested in being a reader and we will have a training session.
Pray the Rosary this week for people who suffer from the cold of winter due to a lack of sufficient food, clothing and shelter; for all who are suffering with illness or infirmity; and, as always, pray for peace
May God bless his people with peace.