6th S. 2020: Cenotes & Ceiba Trees

Today’s homily is for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 13, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of this homily can be viewed by clicking here, and can be heard by clicking here.

Our family’s favorite vacation destination is the Riviera Maya, in Mexico. They’ve got these amazing cenotes. A cenote is like a cave, but the cave opening is at the top, revealing an underground river. The water is crystal clear, and many of them have ropes set up so that one can rappel into them and swim around. They’re beautiful and were sacred to the Mayan people. Probably the coolest part is that the Ceiba tree’s roots go through the earth, and span the gap between the earth ceiling and the water below– sometimes over a hundred feet! You would never know from the top that the trees roots were so long, but from inside the cenote, you can see it quite clearly. I think this image is quite helpful for understanding what Jeremiah is talking about in our first reading. 

Jeremiah is telling God’s people, if you are putting your trust in human beings–if you think that mankind can save you, if your heart turns away from the Lord, you’re like a bush in the desert. It’s just dry sticks all year round…just a sad little thing. But the one who trusts in the Lord, well, that’s quite different. Someone who trusts in the Lord has roots that run deep, always connected to water, and always bears fruit–year round. Of course the fruit of the Christian life is found in Galatians 5:22-26: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. This fruit is produced regardless of the conditions of life–because the person’s roots run deep and have the Lord as their constant source. 

It is always a temptation for humans to look to an earthly, human savior, and many political leaders would like you to believe that they are in fact that savior–if you would but put you trust in them. In Jeremiah’s time around 600BC, between the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, to the Assyrians, and the fall of the South to the Babylonians, Jeremiah condemns the people who put their trust in Israel’s kings instead of their God.

More recently we place trust in political parties and their leaders who make vague and outlandish promises to make everyone’s life here on earth a dream: work to the unemployed; prosperity to failed business people; profits to industry; security by expansion of the military; social harmony and an end of class distinctions to idealistic young students; and restoration of glory to those in despair. They promise to bring order amid chaos; stamp out corruption, unity to all, the chance to belong, and to be strong again. What you just heard were Hitler’s campaign promises. He promised to unite the two great church’s–protestant and Catholic, restore discipline to children running wild in the street, and restore social order. Hitler offered something to everyone–and the German people bought it hook, line, and sinker. 

Are we so different? I remember when Obama would save us from George W. Bush, who promised to save us from Clinton before him, and then Trump would save us from Obama, and then Biden would save us from Trump, and round and round we go–divided, hoping in humans, and forgetting our God. World leaders have their role, but cursed is the one who trusts in them–who seeks strength in the flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. “This one finds himself,” listen to this, “in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” 

Jeremiah bids us to look at the quarter in our pocket. Return to the Lord and put our trust in him. You can always tell who is in the world, but not of the world. They look like everyone else, but like the ceiba tree, their roots run deep. In the world, but not moved by it. He or she fears not when heat comes, their leaves stay green, they show no distress, and always bear fruit at the proper time.

I think that’s the beauty of Catholic schools. They’re in the world– teaching math and language and history, but everyday is filled with prayer, God, Scripture, Catechism, and a commitment to lives of holiness. They are the examples of what we should be–in the world, yes, but connected to a deep river system, invisible to the eye, but one that constantly refreshes the soul. They are the cenotes that remind us of the more that we cannot always see–but that we cannot live without.

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