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Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C (1)
Someone will say, “We’ve had a good winter; not much snow.” Shut up, someone else says. You’re jinxing us. “Wow, I can’t believe how well I’ve played today” and then will mess up the next 3 holes in golf. Jinxed. “Traffic is moving so well, we’ll be in Philly before we know it.” And then comes the accident that ties up the Delaware Bridge. We were jinxed.
It’s a funny idea, but it shows how much we feel language and thinking can be tied up with the way things turn out. It’s as if our words and thoughts correspond with some deeper level of reality; good vibes, we say, when things are working out well. Bad vibes, when things do not go our way. Some people even imagine others with voodoo dolls sticking pins into it as they try to explain why things are not going well.
Our scriptural themes today give us the opposing ideas of blessings and curses. In the first reading, we hear these words attached to the idea of our relationship with God. When we follow that relationship, when we are faithful to the covenant, then we will be blessed. When we violate that relationship, then only curses come to us.
What are blessings and curses? Blessings are words spoken that speak to our health or good. Curses are word spoken that speak to our illness or evil. People bless us when they wish us good; people curse us when they wish us bad. But blessing arises from our living in accord with the design of God, when our actions correspond to the way God is and the goodness God shows. Curses arise from our refusal to live in accord with the way God is, when we violate God’s path.
Jesus applies this insight when he talks about blessings and curses. Here Jesus is speaking about the blessings that come to us when we understand our relationship to God and to others. The blessed are those who know they have to rely on God for everything; those who know that they are poor, needy, and dependent on God. They re blessed because they acknowledge both their reliance on God and God’s fundamental care for them. Isn’t it true that some of the people who most readily acknowledge and thank God are the poor, those for whom every meal seems like a miracle?
It sounds strange to hear Jesus pronouncing curses, but he’s really saying that those people who think they can rely on themselves, who feel they have no need of God or others, are jinxing themselves. They are not living in accord with reality because, no matter how rich or powerful we are, we cannot guarantee one second of our lives. Every one of us is destined to die. This is why St. Paul insists that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is decisive. Of ourselves, we are doomed and powerless. Only with Jesus do we have the hope of defeating death.
God doesn’t curse us; we curse ourselves by the illusions according to which we live. We jinx ourselves by the ways we live as if God didn’t matter, as if we controlled our lives. When we do this, we live in discord with reality, and we suffer the inevitable consequences. “Everything is fine; I’m in control,” and, boom, our lives start falling apart. We jinx ourselves when we think we can live apart from dependence on God.