After the fall, God did not abandon creation but rather encouraged us — by signs and wonders, covenants and prophets — to hope and watch for our redemption. God’s prophets were his voice sent into the world to prepare and form a people ready for
Jeremiah was one such prophet. He existed six centuries before the arrival of the Messiah. In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares that the time of waiting for the Messiah to be ended. He reveals today that he himself is the fulfillment of the ancient hope and that, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jeremiah lived in the Kingdom of Judah, which was on the verge of being overtaken by the ancient Babylonians. The Assyrians had already ravaged the north and the floundering kingdom of Judah was all that remained. Jeremiah had been planned by God, as is every human person, before his formation in his mother’s womb.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” He was sent in love to challenge the declining culture and faith of his people and to warn them not to rely on, among other things, the assurance of simply having the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. It was not a magical good luck charm. Wayward people lead to a wayward end.
He is a sign that the fate of a people is never sealed with God and that there is always hope for change. Jeremiah was told that, “they will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.” Jeremiah, however, would sadly know in his life the temporal demise of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. He himself would be delivered as promised first by being taken to safety in Egypt, and then on the higher plain of salvation.
All the prophets prepare for Christ. Many mistook Christ for being only a prophet; he was so much more. In today’s Gospel, Christ is rejected at the earliest hour of his ministry, as they “rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill … to hurl him down headlong.” His words, at first welcomed, are later rejected by the hardness of heart caused by sin. Sin’s final wrath would show itself in seeking to silence this voice of God by nailing it to the cross to die. Sin would not succeed. Death is sin’s greatest power and it would be destroyed in the resurrection of Jesus.
Even today the rejection of God’s voice continues within hearts hardened by the presence of sin. Often it is a sin that has stealthily crept into culture and unknowingly entered the heart of a society. A prime example of our time is the denial of the inviolable dignity of human life in the womb. In the face of such obstruction God encourages us to go forward in the power of the resurrection, which has conquered our greatest enemy, death. It has conquered death with supreme love. Love is the absolute sign of the presence and the power of God. A wayward culture is challenged by truth spoken in love. Love alone can bear, believe, hope and endure all things. Prophets without love are noisy gongs; prophets with love are the very voice of God.
Questions for Reflection
1. To whom is God sending me?
2. Can I handle the rejection of others?
3. Am I safeguarding my proclamation of Truth with Love?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.