“You duped me, O LORD,” Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet, exclaims at the beginning of today’s first reading (Jeremiah 20:7). The Hebrew verb pathah (“duped”) can also be translated as “enticed” or “seduced,” emphasizing the powerlessness of the prophet in accepting that role. Jeremiah is left in a horrible position, unable to keep it in, but facing abuse and derision when he lets it out. God’s word is like fire—it will either burn him up from within or lay waste to his world when he lets it out. When we speak God’s word, when we live God’s word, it can threaten others, particularly those driven to gain the whole world.
Jeremiah is not the only one faced with difficult things to hear. When Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer and die at the hands of the authorities it is too much for Peter. Jesus responds by admonishing Peter, telling him, You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23). It is difficult not to think as human beings do, as that is who we are, and impossible to know the mind of God. But at least we can appreciate this when we face what seems an impossible burden: there is an unknowable perspective that makes this sensible. Then we can pray for the strength and courage to bear our cross, despite its incomprehensibility.
We are called to make a sacrifice. Our sacrifice is not as great as our Lord’s and may not be as overwhelming as Jeremiah’s. But as Paul says to the Romans, we make a sacrifice when we resist conforming ourselves to the world we live in. We sacrifice a self-centered, comfortable life in this world. We are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. Let each sign of the cross we make remind us of the sacrifice we are called to offer.
Fr. Gerard Lecomte, CJM
Pastoral Patterns Summer 2020