Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we begin our readings with God’s stern but magnificent commission to the prophet Jeremiah:
… stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
What Jeremiah had to tell the Israelites was not comforting news. He prophesied that if they didn’t repent from their idolatry, Jerusalem would fall into the hands of foreign oppressors. Nobody wanted to hear it. They led Jeremiah a life, to the point that he is often referred to as “The Weeping Prophet”. Over the course of forty years and the reign of five Judean kings, Jeremiah’s message continues until, in the end, it comes to fulfillment in the Babylonian Captivity.
How did Jeremiah sustain such confrontational preaching in the face of intractable resistance?
Perhaps the answer lies in our second reading. He did it out of love.
Arthur Cundall, a British scripture scholar writes:
“God wanted a person
with a very gentle and tender heart
for this unrewarding ministry of condemnation.
Jeremiah’s subsequent career shows that
he had this quality in full measure.”
Jeremiah is a living example of the loving, humble, truth-seeking, hope-impelled soul described in 1 Corinthians, our second reading.
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.1 Corinthians 13: 1-2
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
In Luke’s Gospel today, we see Jesus rejected in the same manner as Jeremiah. Jesus’s message calls his listeners to deep conversion of heart in order to be redeemed. Like the ancient Israelites, they don’t want to hear it. They cannot break through their comfortable existence to acknowledge its emptiness.
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,Luke 4:24; 28-30
no prophet is accepted in his own native place….
… When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
The message for us today? Is there an emptiness somewhere in our hearts that we have not yet given over to God? Are we filling it with “false gods”, rather than the loving virtues described in Corinthians? Is there even a small resistance to the Word that keeps us in a “dead space”.
We know where our “dead spaces” are, and we deeply intend them to come alive again. Today, let’s choose to walk the bridge from intention to practice.
Poetry: Jeremiah – Saint John Henry Newman
"WOE'S me!" the peaceful prophet cried,
"Spare me this troubled life;
To stem man's wrath, to school his pride,
To head the sacred strife!
"O place me in some silent vale,
Where groves and flowers abound;
Nor eyes that grudge, nor tongues that rail,
Vex the truth-haunted ground!"
If his meek spirit err'd, opprest
That God denied repose,
What sin is ours, to whom Heaven's rest
Is pledged, to heal earth's woes?
Music: One of my all time favorite songs (Wow! And how about the snow geese at the end of this video!)