Judging from the Jeremiah reading, rewards for a job well done don’t always hold for a prophet who fulfills his/her job description. Jeremiah, not one to hold back his feelings, speaks right up to God. "You duped me, O Lord." (The word for "duped" can also be translated, "seduced.") Either Jeremiah feels he walked right into a trap by responding to God’s invitation (1: 5-10) or, he feels that though he tried to resist the allure of God, he couldn’t. In either case, he is up to his neck in trouble. What was particularly hard for Jeremiah to swallow was that he wasn’t undergoing trials because he shirked his responsibilities. He is suffering precisely because he has been faithful to his calling. He has had a tough job to perform. Judah, under strong Egyptian domination, had adopted pagan cults from Mesopotamia and Canaan. The prophet had denounced this false worship and predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He spoke "violence and outrage" to his own people. Thus, he angered the political and religious leaders of his day and was beaten and jailed. His faithfulness to the message entrusted him by God, was the reason he was treated so harshly by his contemporaries.
It does not appear that Jesus’ disciples understood what they were getting into either, when they first accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him. Today’s gospel passage reveals that he is getting clearer about his impending suffering. Like Jeremiah, Jesus will suffer for doing exactly what God wanted done. His rejection will come, not only at the hands of political opponents, but also by those religious leaders whose interpretation of God and God’s ways differed radically from Jesus’. Did the disciples realize what they were getting into when they said "Yes" to his invitation to follow him? They are learning that serving Jesus, responding to God’s call, even though this is a good thing to do, does not guarantee smooth sailing.
At first things went quite well for the disciples. Jesus had been the favorite of the crowds. He had attracted people by his miracles and fed the hungry with both spiritual and physical food. With all that success, we can’t blame the disciples for not being able to comprehend Jesus’ words at this moment. Peter says, in effect, "God forbid Lord, that you should have to undergo any suffering. Why should things turn bad when everything has been going so very well?" And don’t we too tend to measure whether we are doing the right thing by how well things turn out? We reason, if I am doing what God wants, then God will "bless" me. Or, if God is on my side, things will turn out well. Jeremiah and Jesus – what great prophetic voices they were! What dedication they had to their vocation, even in the midst of enormous religious and political opposition! Despite this opposition, they stayed the course, were faithful to their assigned tasks, right up to their martyrdoms.
We know contemporary people who have also spoken boldly, faced overwhelming opposition and even died for what they believed. God’s Spirit has not been blown out, but in our times continues to work powerful signs in chosen humans. Oscar Romero, Ita Ford and her martyred companions in El Salvador, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. (I am writing this on the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, martyr, his story is worth Googling.) But these greats seem so removed from our lives. We are, we would protest, just "ordinary Christians." Well, if we are listening to today’s readings, as present tense and addressed to us, then we "ordinary Christians" are also called to be "ordinary prophets." The call to follow Jesus and his way is addressed to us and with this call comes the enabling and still-active Spirit who helps us and keeps us faithful.
Do we have a choice, can we reject the invitation to be "ordinary prophets?" Of course we can. What is given to us today is an invitation, not a command. "Whoever wishes to come after me....Whoever wishes to save his/her life...." Jesus wants us to be fully aware of what we are taking on. But we won’t always feel the divine pat on the back for a job well done. Like Jeremiah and Jesus, we may just have to keep going, trusting the call we once heard. It is not that God isn’t the source of our call and our ongoing strength. It’s that we might not always feel it. God never abandoned Jeremiah and Jesus, but they didn’t always experience that presence, they had to keep speaking and acting, meeting severe opposition, all the time trusting in their call and God’s presence with them.
So, Jesus invites us into the same daily journey. If we aren’t prophets with a capital "P", then we are with a small "p" when, in following Christ, we:
-find ourselves at odds with our family’s fundamental choices and criteria or success
-refuse to practice unethical business behavior, even at the risk of our jobs
-choose forgiveness against voices telling us to be "realistic" and not naive
A pastor I know has decided that he will promote the Catholic church’s social teachings in the parish where he ministers. Even though he is a faithful pastor and is always there when parishioners need him, he is still meeting opposition and being accused of neglecting the parish. It seems many in his congregation are "not happy about the direction the parish is taking." It must be particularly difficult for him to meet opposition from people he loves as he tries to be faithful to his vocation. Kind of like being a modern Jeremiah. Or, like Jesus. The pastor must make a daily decision to deny himself and follow Jesus.
As we must in our own place and time.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/083020.cfm
My flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Today’s scripture passage is taken up by Pope Francis at the very beginning of his encyclical "Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home." He passionately writes:
". . .The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she "groans in travail" (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. Nothing in this world is indifferent to us."
September 1 is the World Day of Prayer for Creation and the start of the Season of Creation that lasts until October 4, the Feast of St. Francis. This day of prayer for creation was established by Patriarch Dimitrios I for the Orthodox in 1989, and was then embraced by major Christian European churches in 2001 and by Pope Francis for the Roman Catholic Church in 2015. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis throws down this gauntlet:
13. "The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. . .Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded."
For the 2020 Season of Creation, the suggested theme is "Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope." The jubilee year in the Bible is a year of liberation "par excellence," which is at the end of seven weeks of years, the fiftieth year. To have a jubilee for the earth is to give her a rest from maltreatment.
So, on September 1, pray for creation with this idea of jubilee and then act during the month of the Season of Creation to do your part to give our sister, Mother Earth, rest. In giving her a rest, we ourselves will be restored.
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS,
Director, Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s "Romans" reading:
"Do not conform yourselves to this age; but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the
will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect."
It is clear we can’t take the cross out of our religion. We can’t take it our of our daily consciousness either. We may not suffer on the same kind of cross Jesus did, or be martyred the way so many who have followed him have been. But still, Jesus tells us we must each take up our cross and follow him – and the cross costs. The cross is not simply something we wear as an accessory around our necks. The cross will cost us if we follow what Paul tells us today.
So we ask ourselves:
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. Conditions, even without the pandemic, are awful in our prisons. Imagine what it is like now with the virus spreading through the close and unhealthy prison settings. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
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