Nobody wants to hear bad news. We think that maybe if we don’t hear it, whatever it is won’t come true. The old trick of the ostrich. How long can we ignore it? It seems some of us can ignore bad news and stories of impending disaster for a very long time.
So just imagine Jeremiah’s frustration, as we hear in today’s first reading. Time and again he has warned the king and his subjects that the good times are ending and the bad times are coming. “Yeah, but what proof do you have, Mr. Jeremiah?” they all wanted to know. “You see,” they thought, “if we ignore your warnings, maybe they won’t come true.”
But Jeremiah was prophesying that the people would be between a rock and a hard place. He foresaw that the kingdom was to be overcome by the Babylonians, which was bad enough. But he also said that if they resist they will be annihilated, but that if they surrender, they will be spared.
Not a great choice there – in fact, a true dilemma.
But instead of ignoring Jeremiah this time, they ask the king if they might deal with him in their own way. And as further evidence that the whole system was breaking down, King Zedekiah lets them haul Jeremiah off, not wanting to incite their ire.
A weak king, a weak kingdom, weak-willed advisors and populace, and a man who was fearless in the service of God…something’s got to give.
In the Responsorial Psalm, though, we get the solution: The Lord heard my cry. He drew me out of the pit of destruction. And this is immediately followed by the second reading from Hebrews with the same message: Just as Jesus gave himself up for us and suffered and died, so we too, living his own example, can endure opposition from sinners, running the race until we cross the finish line which is our God.
But then we listen to today’s Gospel. What a message! Has Jeremiah returned to badger us with lamentations? I have come to set the earth on fire… Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
Now wait a minute! Yes, we are taught that Jesus came to establish peace on earth. So now what is Jesus saying here?
He is echoing Jeremiah in the first reading. He is saying that we’re not getting out of this life alive, but that if we take the choice of submission, then we will have eternal life. Yes, there will be problems. There will be troubles. There will be divisions and conflict. We can’t just sit back and hope that nothing bad is going to come our way. It’s already here. But what use is fighting against it? We can resist and be mowed down, or we can submit and be spared.
Some people just acquiesce, thinking that if they play the game, all will turn out well. Like King Zedekiah: to get along, go along. Isn’t this the old trick of the ostrich all over again? Today’s Gospel comes from Luke Chapter 12, which opens with Jesus saying, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” So we can get down there in the sand all we want. Somebody, whether the court official, Ebed-melech who tells King Zedekiah that he’s been discovered allowing one of his subjects to be harmed, or whether it is Jesus who knows what is in the Pharisee’s hearts, or God who knows our innermost thoughts, as we read in Psalm 139, Lord, you have examined me and know all about me.
This world is a perplexing place. We are buffeted on all sides by adversity. We have numerous opportunities to give in and let the winds blow us where they will. But if we truly listed to the Lord, we know that that kind of cowardice or indifference will avail us nothing. Then why not submit? Why not just trust in God who loves us, sinners as we are? What have we got to lose?
Lord, help us today to put our whole life in your hands. Help us to see that the struggle is fruitless if it is not centered on you and your message of love and peace. Help us to “Let go and let God.”