Fear No One

06-21-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In our first reading, we learn that the prophet Jeremiah was not easily intimidated. We also learn that his prophetic vocation was as difficult to accept as it was unambiguous in meaning: A quote found early in the first chapter describes it quite accurately: “To root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant”. Jeremiah was a prophet to the Jewish people just before the Great Babylonian Exile. This prophet loudly told them that its apostasy and infi-delity would bring it all the way down, as indeed it did. His dire and forbidding warnings, though they came to be true, were no way to win acceptance and affirmation by everyone, from the highest and grand level of the king to the lowest and poorest citizen of Judah.

The book of Jeremiah is set up to contain five confessional sections that appear to be diary entries. This weekend we read one of these entries. We are able to sympathize with Jeremiah’s inner struggles as he seeks to be faithful to his hard, hard prophetic vocation. He lets off steam about his now untrustworthy friends who have set out to entrap him. He also thinks about God who supports his cause, even though to Jeremiah God seems far off at the moment. In the end, the prophet stops all this over-thinking and pays attention to his God. Note that Jeremiah does not think much of his enemies and actually wishes the worst for them. He feels God will take care of the poor, of which he considers himself to be one. This diary entry ends with him placing himself in God’s hands.

Keeping Jeremiah in the back of our thoughts, we now think about the Gospel. Jesus values what is spoken, even in difficult and dangerous times. He reminds us of the value of the human spirit and also that his message is “Good News.” His death reminds us that his words are matched by his actions. The words of Jesus should have profound meaning for us. The early church used to deeply ponder the words of Jesus, especially those he spoke after he was crucified and raised from the dead. The apostles were now learning the cost of discipleship as they were shunned, ridiculed, or excluded.

Like all people who must stand alone and choose their faith, they also experienced the fear of choosing and its end unknown results. They, however, overcame that fear. They continued to proclaim the message of Jesus, which they witnessed in their faith. We know that, for some, their choices cost them their lives. They were people of great integrity and faith. They preserved their souls. This happened because they trusted greatly Jesus and his Father and also the Spirit, who know who we are and where we are—who knows, in fact, the number of hairs on our young or aging heads!