Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jeremiah and Jesus - Prophets of Truth: The Well and the Cross and our Baptismal Call

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time    Year C            18 August 2013

Here are the readings for the day:  
Jeremiah and Jesus - Prophets of Truth:
The Well and the Cross and our Baptismal Call

Imagine a young patriot, who loves his nation, and watches as political and economic powers come to ensnare his nation in a web of lies and secrecy and military alliances and covert operations. And then imagine that very disturbing truths are revealed to this young patriot that the average citizen has no information. So this young patriot dares speak the truth aloud, exposing the realities.

But because this young man tells the truth, he is then arrested and undergoes torture for what he knows to be wrong. He stands up to the powers of his day and dares speak the truth – a terribly inconvenient truth – that the powerful and complacent do NOT want to hear.  

This is what Jeremiah did in the first reading today.

King Zedekiah of Jerusalem was a puppet king of the King of Babylon who had seized control of Jerusalem and all of Judea.

Jeremiah was a true patriot who loved Israel and Jerusalem and saw how the people had broken their covenant with God.

The Lord revealed to the prophet Jeremiah that the people of Judea should not put their trust in a military empire.
Jeremiah fulfilled his role as prophet and spoke the Word of the Lord despite those who said he was “undermining their national security.”

King Zedekiah and his officials and the people would NOT listen to the word of the LORD from Jeremiah. And because the people trusted in war and political alliances rather than trusting in the LORD, Jeremiah declared that Jerusalem would fall to Babylon. 

That’s where we find ourselves in today’s first reading where the princes said to the king, “Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing our soldiers and all the people; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.” 

They wanted to kill Jeremiah because he spoke the truth. He was despised as an unpatriotic false prophet and declared guilty of treason.

So Zedekiah handed Jeremiah over to his cronies and they threw Jeremiah down a well.

But Jeremiah’s preaching was not merely a political attack on the state; it was a call to individuals to decide to serve either the Kingdom of God or the Empire of Men. Jeremiah’s cry was a call to conversion, repentance and reliance upon God.

Jeremiah was addressing a critical issue of his day – one that we also face: the idea of building a society cut off from God, cut off from the influence of faith, and trusting only in ourselves, our wealth, our power.

Yet we each have our own private alliances with sin. We all make deals with evil. We try to bargain with the devil. We play games with our demons, our sinfulness. We succumb to temptation and rationalize our sins away. We often want the easy way out, but spiritual formation and discipleship takes practice and discipline.

For instance, it’s easier to watch TV or get on Facebook than pray, go to Mass, pray our rosary, or volunteer somewhere. We often don’t want to fight that inner battle of placing ourselves in the hands of God.  

How many things take the place of God in our lives each day?

And so many of us, myself included, often engage in half-hearted worship and a lack-luster faithfulness to God and neighbor.

Jeremiah challenged false worship and the social policy of his day; reliance upon the empire rather than upon God.

The message is the same today.

Yet to proclaim this truth will cause us pain. Division. A sword. 

The Cross.

Jesus certainly disturbed the phony peace of the Roman Empire and the status quo of the religious establishment of his day.

Jesus spoke truth to power. And he, like Jeremiah, was arrested for his prophetic voice in the face of power and religious intolerance. Both Jeremiah and Jesus illustrate for us the personal cost that a decision for God can bring about.

Being a disciple of the Lord is not easy. Yet in our faithfulness the Lord will be with us; and though we may lose some friends, we will gain others, brothers and sisters in the Lord.

In the divine mystery, we will suffer. But if we suffer in our faith, and persevere in running the race, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not lose heart in our struggle against sin.

* But as Jesus’ prophetic peacemakers, we will likely stir up trouble advancing the kingdom of God.

Yet we are called to bring peace. But to the world it will not look like peace. It is a peace that the world cannot give – or receive.

The world offers us a false peace without justice. But without justice there can be no true peace. So as prophets we must continue to resist our culture of violence, a culture of death, and war.

But when we fulfill our role as prophet, and stand up for what is right, we may suffer martyrdom. [None of us here in the U.S. have to fear for our lives in attending Mass like some of our brothers and sisters in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. We are not standing in a burnt out church this morning either].

Yet some of us may suffer a form of martyrdom by being ridiculed by our peers, even by our family members and fellow Catholics for our enthusiasm in taking Jesus at his word, whether it is in our defending the poor, taking a stand for justice, questioning American foreign policy or domestic policies, or even remaining true to our faith. 

We may be put to death socially. We may suffer a bloodless martyrdom of gossip. We may not be invited to any more of the social soirees.

We may be chastised for praying for or ministering to a man condemned for murder. We may be ridiculed for ministering to the marginalized and welcoming the immigrant [how dehumanizing is it to declare a human person an alien?] and embracing the unwanted, those considered less than human.

We may be judged by some believers because we continue to love a gay son or daughter, or continue to show compassion to the prodigals in our midst.

We may be ignored because we passed up a cocktail party to work the soup kitchen or attend a justice rally. We may be scorned because we choose mercy over judgment. 

Or we may be snubbed because of our defense of the unborn child, or our insistence that the death penalty ought to be abolished, or that war should be a last resort-if ever. 

The irony in this is that when we speak to these issues, and seek mercy and peace, we will likely be called disturbers of the peace.

And in our world, that’s enough to make you an enemy of the state.

And, sometimes, it’s enough to make you an outlaw in your own family.

May the grace of our baptismal call set us on fire as joyful prophets of the Lord!

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