Jeremiah 20:7
You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped…
In every other major translation of the Bible, including the Spanish version that we use at Mass, the word translated as “duped” is a much stronger word. It is “you seduced me, oh Lord, and I let myself be seduced…” This is a much stronger word. It implies God pursuing Jeremiah. Now, we have another meaning to the word “seduced” that implies immorality.
But this is not what Jeremiah is speaking of. God would not be doing something that is immoral! No, something else is meant here. I think it is revealed in what is said in the rest of this reading. In the last part of the reading, Jeremiah recognizes that he cannot keep still about the Lord and his desires for the nation. It burns within him, causing him to speak out what God wants, even though it causes Jeremiah troubles.
These troubles almost got him killed! And that is the connection between our first reading and our gospel today. Jeremiah was threatened because he continued to speak the truth about God. Jesus was also threatened because of his desire to see the work of his Father come to completion.
Here is a simple question for you: have you ever been threatened because of your faith in Jesus? Another question: have you ever had the desire to speak about Jesus to somebody else be so strong inside of you that you could not do anything but speak up? And yet a third question: have you ever felt pushed by the Holy Spirit to speak about Jesus? And a last question: do you realize this is what is expected of every Catholic?
Let us go back to that first question for a moment. This is proving to be a more real question in our day than I expected it to be. The number of vandalisms of statues and churches that have happened in recent months should serve as a warning about what is potentially just over the horizon. The attacks so far have been mostly against property, but it could turn against us, simply because of our faith.
Being threatened because of our devotion to Jesus is a real possibility. Those of us who have had a strong faith for many years in our lives, especially if it started when we were… say… in high school, know what it is like to be bullied because of our faith. What is just over the horizon may be a call to real martyrdom.
Let us turn to the second question. If we have a love for Christ, we should also have a love for everyone else, and that would include desiring that they learn to love Christ as we do.
Have you ever listened to a newly engaged woman talk about her future husband? She can hardly keep quiet! And that is as it should be. There should be an excitement with that kind of relationship. And, Jesus is called the bridegroom of our soul!
This excitement about the love of Jesus should stir us to want to share with everyone we meet the wonder of who he is for our souls. We should expect everyone to be as excited about Jesus as we are. This is what the newly engaged woman expects of all her friends! And, if one of her friends does not share her excitement over her engagement because they do not care for the young man, well… that can put a strain on the friendship. And there have been friendships that have been lost because of a newfound faith in Jesus. Jesus even said households would be split because of him: father against son, mother against daughter, etc.
The third question is in some ways an extension of the second. But it has to do with an understanding of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives. It does require of us a certain amount of “awareness” – the saints call it “discernment.” But I would make it a little more basic, and that is why I use the word awareness. I am convinced every single Catholic has had an experience of the Holy Spirit touching their lives.
Let me give you three simple points: 1) Have you ever made a decision where you knew that you were going in the right direction, and you were very happy about the decision because you knew it was right; 2) have you ever made a decision where you were not happy, but knew it was right; 3) think about a time you went to confession when you heard the priest say “I absolve you of your sin” and the feeling of healing and completion settled in your heart. You knew it was true and right.
If you analyze these three types of events, I think you will find there is a certain… feeling that is common inside your heart for all three. This is the awareness of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who drove you to confession. He is the one who helped you decide to do something you did not want to do. He is the one who is convinced you when you are moving in the right direction.
This push by the Holy Spirit is what Jeremiah felt. He could not stop speaking about God! We would be fortunate if we had the same sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit every day of our lives.
Now, the last question: do you realize this is what is expected of every Catholic?
I think in the climate of our society today we need to be more ready to face the possibilities of: isolation at the least; and martyrdom at the most. Many people are already feeling that isolation. Some professions in our country are denied the possibility of even speaking the name of Jesus with any reverence.
And yet, as one of the founding fathers of our country said “this country was founded on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Who said this? The same man who said “give me liberty, or give me death.”
What wells up inside us when we hear this word from Jeremiah that God seduced him – made him a prophet who could not keep his mouth shut about the glory of God? Are we driven by the same thing?
So we pray. Jesus, you are the lover of our souls. You sent your Holy Spirit to fill us with a longing for your kingdom. To fill us with a longing to bring others to your kingdom. Help us to have a burning in our heart like Jeremiah. May your Holy Spirit make us bold in proclaiming you to a world that has turned away, even as the people in Jeremiah’s day turned away.
Paul warned us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. Renew us, Lord, that we may speak your words with joy and love in such a way that others will be seduced to follow you. Amen.