Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 14, 2016
As the rest of the world looks on as nervous “observers,” we Americans are living between two battle cries: LET’S MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!…and…STRONGER TOGETHER! Both campaign slogans are clearly intended to arouse within voters’ minds images of a brighter future…a time of prosperity, peace, and security. It is for us to decide which candidate is most likely to make their slogan reality, and there is certainly discussion and debate at the family dinner table, the workplace, the corner bar…and even within the leadership of the two political parties. There is one thing on which everyone appears to be in agreement, and that is simply that we live in very dangerous times. Whoever becomes “the leader of the free world” will shoulder unimaginable challenges and responsibilities.
Eliminate the threat of nuclear annihilation and you get a pretty good sense of the times into which Jeremiah was sent by God to deliver a message to “the leader of the Chosen People,” “the ancient free world.” King Zedekiah ruled at a time where there were the usual concerns over the economy, the effects of natural disasters and diseases, human rights abuse, and all of the other things that concern us today. In addition to all of that, there was a grave concern over national security. How committed were the allies? How serious was the threat of invasion? How prepared was Israel to defend The Promised Land? Sound familiar? The more things change, the more they stay the same!
He is often referred to as “the weeping prophet.” The reason is simple. His message was harsh…not well received…and he was severely persecuted for his service on God’s behalf. In fact, Jeremiah was persecuted to the point that he wanted to resign. But he found that he couldn’t quit. I say I will not mention Him (God), I will no longer speak in His (God’s) Name. But then, it is as a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, and I cannot! Jeremiah 20:9
Feel the burn?
Jeremiah did, and he continued to preach the message entrusted to him, which can be reduced to one word: SUBMIT. Or, if you prefer: SURRENDER. It was unthinkable that the Chosen People should submit to a foreign power…and surrender the Promised Land. He was accused of treason and thrown into a pit to die. But God’s Word did not sink down onto the mud. In the end, it was raised up and prevailed.
Like Jeremiah, a prophet mighty in Word and deed, Jesus was much more. Jesus was both the Messenger as well as the Message. Jesus was God’s Eternal Word made flesh, Who came to dwell among us with the same message from God…burning in His Heart…SUBMIT! SURRENDER! However, Jesus was not proposing submission to a foreign power, rather, to the will and power of Almighty God. For His efforts, Jesus was also doubted, ridiculed, and conspired against. There was no escape for the Lord. Rather than being thrown into a pit, He was driven to the crest of a hill and nailed to a Cross…the perfect model of submission and surrender to the will of God…laying down His life so that others might live. Jesus gave His life so that others might know the brightest of futures…a future of prosperity, security, and eternal peace.
If a presidential candidate were to propose to voters that America SUBMIT! SURRENDER! …they probably would not be thrown into a pit to die…nor would they be crucified. But they certainly would be mocked and ridiculed, and they very definitely would not be elected. Yet, that is what Jesus is asking each of us to do. If we SUBMIT! SURRENDER! to God’s will, we can “Make our spiritual lives great again.” If, together, as the people chosen by God to follow Jesus Christ, we SUBMIT! SURRENDER! to the power and will of Almighty God, then we will know a strength that defies all earthly powers. And, someday, we will enjoy the brightest of futures…one that will never end.
The question before us is, “How do I do that? How do I submit to the will of God?”
Here’s how: We open our hearts to the power, to the truth of the gospel. We ask ourselves, “Am I living with integrity? Am I faithful to my commitments? My responsibilities? We ask ourselves in challenging situations, “What would Jesus do?” We live as Jesus lived. We love.
Now, do you feel the burn?