“You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.” — Jeremiah 20:7
This weekend is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here. The readings are tough in that they clearly show that following the will of God is not easy. The first reading has Jeremiah raging against God for God’s calling Jeremiah to be a prophet. This reading is profound on a number of levels, not the least of which is the comfort that it is OK to be angry with God. However, for us to be ultimately at peace, we must follow God’s plan for us, even if it is one we would not have independently chosen.
Today’s reflection comes from Dr. Robert P. Heaney of Creighton University’s Online Ministries Program. Dr. Heaney is one of my of favorite authors on that site, not only for his profound reflections but also because he is a living example of how scientific and faith work together for the betterment of humankind. Dr. Heaney is a Professor at Creighton’s internationally-known Osteoporosis Research Center. Accordingly to his biography, Dr. Heaney also reads a lot of theology and his wisdom shows in his reflections. You can read Dr. Heaney’s reflections on the Sunday readings here, but set forth below is an extended summary:
“Perhaps today should be called “Prophecy Sunday”. We start with Jeremiah. Prophecy was not a job he wanted. “You tricked me Lord” he tells God. And what did he get? Derision and reproach. Why? Well, the job of a prophet was not to serve as fortune teller (as perhaps we might think). It was to be God’s spokesperson, to tell people they are not doing what God wants, that they are not running the world the way God intended it to be run.
A prophet’s job didn’t stop with words though. A prophet was to show by his/her life how God wanted people to live and govern. A prophet had to “walk the walk”. And a prophet was to witness God’s vision for humanity to those in charge – at obvious risk to the prophet’s physical health. Nobody likes to hear that his priorities are wrong, especially those who are in a position of power.
Jesus was a prophet (He was more than that, of course, but prophet was the role He played as God incarnate). He anticipates His fate as a prophet in today’s gospel (“suffer greatly from the rulers”), and He straightens Peter out, Peter who, like Jeremiah, would rather that their prophetic message would be received with joy and gratefulness. Dreamer!
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As a society we may be a little more humane than the rulers in Jesus’ time. (After all, we don’t line the roads with crucified rebels as the Romans did.) But power is still abused massively. Worth is still defined by wealth. Today in the U.S., people are driven into poverty and homelessness, despite working full-time. Even our clothing and foods are the products of little more than slave labor. What are we to do? We feel helpless. Just look the other way? Don’t make waves?
No, we are called to take seriously the missionary charge at the end of Mass “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives.” That’s the missioning of a prophet. “By our lives” means more than virtue and piety, observing the rules and receiving the sacraments – though those are good traits to have. (But remember: the Pharisees did that much.) When Jesus didn’t know what to do next, He spent the night in prayer, asking His father to show Him what He should do next. That’s a good place for us to start, too.
One thing we should recognize: not “conforming to this age” will put us out on the margins – where we could encounter “derision and reproach”. However, as Pope Francis has assured us, that is precisely where the Church needs to be. And the Church, as always, is us.”