In many ways, the prophet Jeremiah is a prototype of the person and mission of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, Jeremiah was divinely designated prophet even before he was born: he confronted the evil and vice of the religious and political leaders of his time, plus his message was rejected and he was persecuted for seeking the right relationship with God. Jeremiah’s travails and Jewish antagonism against the person and mission of Christ reminds us that the quest to be perfect will inevitably lead to conflict with others who are not comfortable with that quest. Thus, every Christian should expect persecution from agents of unrighteousness.
Two reasons account largely for the conflict between those in the right relationship with God and the unrighteous. First, the unrighteous derive pleasure from evil and vice and the mere presence of a nonconformist seeker of righteousness is a silent rebuke that troubles their conscience. Secondly, the unrighteous usually develop, and would like to sustain, vested interest in the reign and practice of evil. The righteous, on the other hand, do not stand by to watch evil thrive, for neutrality in the face of obvious evil amounts to culpable complicity. So the righteous, in good conscience, have to confront the “vested interests” of the unrighteous thereby provoking a “response,” usually in the form of persecution.
The first reading this weekend presents to us God’s reassuring words to the prophet Jeremiah after he encountered persecution at the hands of the leaders of Israel to whom he was sent. God reassured him that He called him even before he was conceived and encouraged him to carry out his prophetic ministry fearlessly, in spite of persecution, because he would always have the assurance of God’s protection. Jesus, Himself, experienced grave antagonism from His own people at Nazareth after He told them the truth about His mission and revealed to them exactly how they would react to Him.
By virtue of baptism, we too are prophets called to minister in our time and to our community. God invites us to fulfill our prophetic ministry by actively and deliberately confronting the structures of sin and vice. The best way to fulfill our prophetic vocation in our time is through Love, the most excellent of the spiritual gifts. Paul emphasizes this in the second reading where he identified love as the greatest of theological virtues. For the Apostle Paul, the gifts of tongues, prophesy, faith and even boastful charity merely constitute ineffectual noise if the bearer of such gifts is love deficient. When persecuted, the Christian faces the temptation to become bitter, self-righteous and hateful towards the persecutor. St. Paul reminds us that “love does not brood over injury… It bears all things… Endures all things.” If we hate those who persecute us for seeking the right relationship with God, we become “converts” to the reign of evil ourselves.
Let us pray during this Mass for grace to respond fearlessly, yet lovingly, to our prophetic calling knowing that we have the perpetual assurance of God’s protection.
Please be kind and may God bless you.
Fr. ManassehBACK TO LIST