Friday, March 30, 2012

Reporters and Stones

“Jeremiah knew what it meant to be despised by others. He has even given his name to the verb that ostracizes such a person. To be “jeremiahed” is to be excluded from the group. Let us spend a few moments thinking about the experience of Jeremiah so that we can see what it takes to be a prophet.” (Commentary on the first reading today taken from Companion.)

Jeremiah 20:10 says, “For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Perhaps he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.”

What does defaming mean? According to Barnes’ notes on the Bible (another commentary), the word defaming refers to people whispering in twos and threes separately. To defame, by dictionary definition, also means to slander, malign or issue false statements against a person. This was the case of Jeremiah. Familiars or those who pretended to be his friends were talking in small groups behind his back and talking about what faults they can use to charge him or report him to the authorities so that he would stop prophesying to them about the sins they are committing against God. These people were angry with him because of the message he preached. They could not stand to hear him remind them of their sins. That is why his enemies planned to bring him down.

“Jesus followed in the footsteps of Jeremiah in that He was rejected by many of the influential Jewish leaders of His day,” says the commentary on the Gospel today in the devotional Companion.

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus in our Gospel today. To which Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” (John 10:31-32)

Like Jeremiah, Jesus was just obeying God the Father and living out God’s will. Sadly, the influential people of their time didn’t like them to say the least. The influential people of their time planned for their downfall. They plotted against Jesus, waited for Jesus to commit mistakes so they can trap Him and accused Him. They did these so that He would stop preaching against them. Like the enemies of Jeremiah, the influential Jews in the Sanhedrin used their position and influence to bring charges against Jesus and arrest Him.

Can you relate with Jeremiah or Jesus today? Or can you relate with any of the other characters?

Jeremiah lamented at the beginning of the first reading but he expressed his trust and confidence in God towards the end.

“But the LORD
is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” (Jeremiah 20:11-13)

If you are currently experiencing what Jeremiah and Jesus experienced before, put your trust and confidence in God just like Jeremiah and Jesus. Remember that though their enemies plotted against them, God did not forsake them. He allowed painful and difficult things to happen to them which made their enemies think that they have prevailed over them. But in the end, God showed their enemies that He is on their side and He granted them victory.

So cry out to God just like Jeremiah and Jesus! Pour out your heart and cast your burdens and troubles upon His throne. Then wait on the Lord to renew your strength and deliver you from your enemies. Be not afraid to speak God’s message that burns in your heart!

If you can relate with the influential people during Jeremiah and Jesus’ time, think again as you contemplate on what charges to bring against the Jeremiah in your life right now. If you are holding a stone in your hand now, think again. Are you going to use that stone to build the Church or God’s kingdom or are you gathering stones so you can throw them against your neighbor? Ask God to search and probe your heart and mind and reveal to you your real motive for criticizing your neighbor and speaking against him/her behind his/her back. Are you attacking God’s messenger because you hear God’s voice through him/her as God reveals the condition of your soul?

God hears the cry of the poor, the needy. According to another
commentary on the first reading, the needy or the poor in this passage is used in a religious sense here. Therefore, the needy and poor here also refer to those ill-treated by others but are confident in God and who rely only on God for support or deliverance. Let me quote from the Sacred Space commentary: By Jeremiah’s time, the term ‘poor/needy’ had become virtually synonymous with ‘righteous’, someone whose total trust and dependence is on God.

So hold on to that stone in your hand. Don’t rush to hurl it on your neighbor’s face for you might be hurling it against God’s anointed. Acts 5:39 says, “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

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