"Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings," says Jeremiah. Psalm 1 affirms, "Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked." Luke tells about the rich man, who, from eternal torment, asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so they will change their ways. Abraham replies, "They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them."
The traditional point of these readings is: Trust in God, not in people, who may be evil or self-centered or otherwise unreliable guides toward the fullness of Life.
What an impoverished message!
I prefer to flip the message 180 degrees: Seek out and fill your life with people who consciously and reliably aim to live in God. It's okay if they use different language for that quest. They may not specifically "listen to Moses and the prophets" but they listen attentively for the rustling Wind that points the way.
My mother always told us, "You can't get into heaven alone. You have to take someone with you." What I've learned is: I can't get into heaven alone. I need other people to take me with them. To walk with me. Sometimes to carry me, redirect me, call me back from misguided detours, ask me candid questions about my route, listen to me, and tell me take a breather.
Through dumb luck and a few pivotal choices whose long-lasting impacts I would never have guessed, I happen to live with people and communities who do this. It's a continual process of faith formation disguised as normal life with others.
Right now I'm pretty overwhelmed by needs on all sides. I feel depleted. There's a strange mix of abundance and drought. And so I like a later part of today's psalm: "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord. They are like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season." I hope in the Lord because the living water of several communities nourishes my roots and gives me hope that diligence and grace will bring that fruit later.
I know that as I age, it will be more challenging to connect to my communities, whose members will also age. This awareness keeps me open to new ways of connecting, and to new communities, like Sister Joan Chittister's Monasteries of the Heart.
So I rewrite today's word from Jeremiah:
Trust in the Lord
and seek trustworthy companions
whose hope is the Lord.
Be a trustworthy companion to others,
patiently intermingling deep roots
in God's presence.
Live like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream,
the ever-constant, ever-changing stream:
this tree fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.