22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle A | 3 September 2017
Jer. 20: 7-9
Rom. 12: 1-2
Mt. 16: 21-27
INTRODUCTION: Let us focus our reflection for today on the Prophet Jeremiah before we listen to what he says in the first reading.
(1) Jeremiah is a very interesting figure not only as a literary man but also as a person. Of all the prophets, he comes vividly alive as a complex person, sometimes sure of himself, at times anxious. A very moving incident of his life is his prophetic call. Right away he resists: “Oh Lord, not me! I’m too young.” Scholars say he was only 17 when he was first called. Like Jonas, he tried to run away from his prophetic call. God gave him a terrible message to convey to his people. Because of their infidelity, God will punish them through Babylon. When the invading Babylon was near, he told the people just to surrender rather than fight. Not a bit of his audience received his message because it was negative, defeatist, a downer. He was known as a “weeping Prophet” and his nickname “Terror in every side” because that is what he talks every time. To this day a man like him is called a Jeremiah. He was mocked and exiled and most likely murdered while in exile. In the meantime, all his predictions came true.
(2) Against this background, let us listen to him: “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped;” I have been tricked into this! “You were too strong for me, and you triumphed.” Jeremiah sounds like a frustrated spouse. I had the sense to resist you but you were too strong for me. Result? “All day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out violence and outrage is my message. The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.” (v. 7-8) I want everyone listening now to move to this Jeremiah space. Anyone who authentically speaks the word of God in our culture today and even the behavioral implications of God’s word is to expect pretty much what Jeremiah got. (The preacher gives his own experience at this point when he speaks about human dignity of a child of God or about abortion or about gays, etc.) This is the lot of preachers and prophets! Do we give up? No! Listen to Jeremiah’s ending words!
(3) “I say to myself I will not mention him. I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. I grow weary holding it in. I cannot endure it.” (v. 9) Once we have heard God’s word, we can’t un-hear it; we can’t stop ringing the bell; we can’t pretend not to know, even when it makes us unpopular, even when it comes as a burden in our lives, even when it makes us lose our friends. There is nothing more exciting and more fulfilling than preaching God’s Word in our world!
CONCLUSION: Jeremiah’s message is the same as what Paul said: “Woe to me if I do not evangelize.” (I Cor. 9:16) The vocation of a prophet is never and will never be an easy one but it will be there inside. That is the exultant call of being a prophet.
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches