Both Jeremiah and Jesus are criticized and denounced in today’s readings.
In the first reading, Jeremiah riles the priests, the prophets and the people by recalling what happened to the home of the Ark of the Covenant at Shiloh. Long before Solomon built a Temple to house the Ark, the Israelites had created a temporary home for it at Shiloh. However, the enemies of Israel were able to destroy Shiloh and carry off the Ark because the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, had defied God’s commandments. Jeremiah reminds them of what happened at Shiloh and tells them that God will let the same thing happen to them if they refuse to obey the Law. They threaten to execute Jeremiah rather than listen to his oracle.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus enters the synagogue in his home town and begins to teach the people. This episode comes at the end of the third of the five discourses in Matthew’s Gospel, commonly called the Discourse of the Parables. Throughout this chapter, Jesus has been teaching lessons which point toward the establishment of the Kingdom of God. When the disciples ask why he teaches in parables, he speaks of the rejection that is to come. Already the Pharisees and the Herodians are plotting against Jesus. Now when he teaches in their synagogue, they take offense at him because they think he is acting beyond his station in life. They knew him as the son of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter. It was unthinkable for them to accept a tradesman as their teacher. So they join the Pharisees and the Herodians in rejecting Jesus.
Both Jeremiah and Jesus are simply acting as God had directed. They obeyed God and as a result reminded these people that they were also called to obey the commandments of the Lord. They fail to pay attention to the message because they don’t particularly like the messenger. Jeremiah was a mere youth. How dare he try to teach the priests and the people? Jesus was the son of a carpenter. What gave him the right to teach in the synagogue?
Of course, much the same thing goes on in our world today. Rather than listening to the message, we take offense at the messenger. Examples of prophets in our own time are too numerous to mention. All too often their message is ignored until we find ourselves in a quagmire. Our present situation is just one more example of people who know better and refuse to listen to the prophet or prophets in our midst.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator