by Father Mike Stubbs
Shoot the messenger!
Those who bring bad news are frequently attacked. It is a knee-jerk reaction to a difficult situation. Since it is so hard to deal with the problem, the messenger serves as an easy substitute.
That is often the case now. It was true thousands of years ago in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. He had predicted that the city of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah would fall to the Babylonians, the rising power of the Near East. They had already conquered the neighboring countries. Judah would be next.
In return for his honesty, Jeremiah is whipped and confined in the stocks for public mockery. Nonetheless, Jeremiah entrusts himself to God.
In Sunday’s first reading, Jer 20:10-13, we overhear him describing his hardships, but then turning to God in prayer.
Jeremiah has not only encountered opposition from the government authorities and religious leaders. He has even suffered abandonment by those he had considered his friends:
“All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. ‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.’”
Despite these hardships, Jeremiah remains confident that God will come to his rescue: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.”
It seems counterintuitive. How is it possible to view the defeat of one’s own country as victory by God? But that is exactly the position that Jeremiah takes.
In his confidence in God’s victory, Jeremiah offers a prayer of praise to God: “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!”
Jeremiah’s predictions came true in the year 587 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah stayed in Jerusalem, amid the ruins.
Later, though, a band of his fellow countrymen who were resisting Babylonian rule took him with them into exile in Egypt.
According to tradition, they murdered him there. However, his prophecies lived on after his death, when they were committed to writing.
Jeremiah’s words continue to inspire us to place our trust in God. They reassure us that God will come to our rescue, that the hardships which beset us will similarly be vanquished through God’s power, just as they were for Jeremiah.