June 25, 2023
Jer 20:10-13; Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33
Peter’s Pence collection today.
From the first reading today, Jeremiah said:
“I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!’
All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.’
Whoa-ho. What is going on here? And what could this ever have to do with us? We didn’t come to Church looking for a great model for pain. We want GOOD news and HAPPINESS!! So, who is Jeremiah? And why are people so angry at him? Or afraid of him?
Well, Jeremiah was called –against his will- by God, about 590 BC, give or take a few years. After the split of Israel about 920 BC, shortly after the reign of King David, the divided kingdom was substantially weakened. Around 720 BC the Assyrians overthrew the 10 tribes making up the northern kingdom of Israel despite warnings from other prophets sent by God. The Israelites just could not resist the allure of foreign wives and husbands nor their foreign gods. Then around 587 BC, the Babylonians overthrew the southern kingdom of Judea for the same or similar reasons including very weak and corrupted leaders.
Into this fray, God sent the reluctant Jeremiah out to his own kinsmen to tell them God was running out of patience. If they didn’t straighten up and return to an exclusive allegiance to the ONE TRUE GOD, their kingdom would be destroyed.
Of course, once you’re having a really good time and feeling the sheer joy and confidence that comes from making up your own rules, they really were not that interested in Jeremiah’s message. On top of the unwelcomed message, they knew Jeremiah. He was a commoner; a regular guy. With no history of commanding authority or public eloquence. He became so annoying that they abused him and even locked him in stocks in the town square so his own people could heckle him for his outrageous claim to be God’s messenger. Plus, just being in the stocks in the heat was torturous. He had no friends and it seemed that even God had abandoned him despite doing exactly what God had told him to do. Much of the book of Jeremiah is indeed heart wrenching in describing the physical, emotional and spiritual pain involved in doing God’s work.
Being God’s messenger can make many people around us uneasy and even downright hostile. Conversions and mission calls change just about everyone’s lives.
Last week’s readings reminded us that God had made the Israelites, and US a priestly people and a holy nation. When we are baptized we too are anointed and included into the mission of priest, prophet and king. Today we are reminded especially of the role of prophet. We, the baptized, are all called and sent to give living witness to the Lord among us. As the Eucharistic Prayer tells us, we are called to “read the signs of our times through the light of faith”. Not predict the future or the end of the world, but to understand how God is with us and how His plan of salvation history can be understood by His past acts. The more familiar we are with salvation history, the more we can understand what is happening in our contemporary circumstances and how we should respond.
Chastity and stewardship are two areas of modern life most in need of good teaching and probably most likely to put us in a ‘Jeremiah-like’ situation. It’s sometimes said that, ‘the conservatives want the pope out of the boardroom and the liberals want the pope out of the bedroom’. When we are between a rock and a hard place, we can always call on the intercession of Jesus Himself, of course, but also the many saints who have gone before us. They know the terrain; the dangers and the victories.
Following are some saints who started with considerable wealth and then decided to give it away or direct it to their ministries to reach out to some of the most needy. Reading their biographies can help understand the difficult terrain between former circles of friends and new acquaintances and friends.
Francis of Assisi
Elizabeth of Hungary
Elizabeth Ann Seton
Reformers who had to reform their own religious orders.
John of the Cross
Teresa of Avila
Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist
Provincial Anglican to communist to general bohemian to devout Catholic. Advocate of the poor and with very devout and traditional spiritual habits. Patterned her spiritual practices after St. Therese of Lisieux, in fact, ‘The Little Flower’.
Many new Catholic converts could tell stories of losing former family and friends who can’t accept or understand their new world view. Often there is not a new group of highly motivated Catholics readily available to accompany them during their new journey. Perhaps their zeal easily overwhelms less motivated or ‘provincial’ Catholics.
It’s natural to get all types of complaints and critiques within our practice of the faith. The call to follow Jesus is so radically different than anything else, that it’s easy to get lukewarm after awhile if we are not specifically focused on a mission that leads us to closer community life and ongoing conversion. As faith builds God sends more challenges as that is what continues to strengthen faith. The life of discipleship provides endless challenges to stretch and walk into the unknown.
What has been the reaction from loved ones, colleagues and friends as we have progressed through our lives of committed discipleship?
What new friends have we developed? How have they helped to sharpen our focus identify different talents that God has given us?
How might we have helped others realize their new talents, charisms and ministries?