Of all the prophets, the one that is most closely identified with Jesus is Jeremiah. All of the prophets except Jonah failed to convince their brothers and sisters of the fact that God had sent them, but Jeremiah writes about his rejection in more detail than the others. Jesus’ life and his life are similar in so many ways, particularly in the fact that it was the political powers of the day that persecuted them most ferociously.
Perhaps because Jeremiah was the youngest of all the prophets when God called him, he experiences the terror of being persecuted more acutely and details it in his writing. He is a pre-exilic prophet whom God sent to warn the people of their impending doom and the fact that they would once again be pressed into slavery. He eventually was exiled to Egypt once Assyria devastated both Israel and Judah. He died there after being tortured and persecuted by the people that had once held all of the children of Israel in slavery.
Several of the laments in the Book of Psalms capture his plight eloquently. Like so many of the laments, he was able to hold on to his belief that God heard his desperate pleas for vindication. He entrusts himself and his situation to God. With praise he is able to proclaim: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” Historically speaking, he never saw the day of his vindication. However, despite his desperate situation, he never loses hope.
Jesus clearly faced the same kind of persecution due to his own prophetic voice. Today’s Gospel centers around one of the multiple times the Jewish leaders tried to stone him. Yet Jesus wholly entrusts himself and the situation to God. He tells those who accuse him of blasphemy that even if they do not believe he is the Son of God, they should at least believe in the good works that he performs.
Today’s readings challenge us to trust in the Lord completely. At the same time, we need to be aware of the fact that the good deeds we do can and often do point others to God. If we do good in Jesus’ name, others will notice. These two challenges kept both Jeremiah and Jesus on the path. Let the same be said of us.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator