for the twenty-second Sunday of the Year
Jer 20:7-9 - Rom 12:1-2 - Mt 16:21-27
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The vocation of the Prophet
Jer 20:7, O Lord, thou hast seduced me, and I was seduced; thou art stronger than I, and thou hast prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; every one mocks me. 8, For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, «Violence and destruction!» For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9, If I say, «I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,» there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
The first reading for this day recounts the first words of a complaint addressed to God by the prophet Jeremiah, who had just been arrested for having prophesied and proclaimed several misfortunes (cf. Jer 19). The second reading, in the words of Saint Paul, exhorts all Christians to be attentive, not to the cries of the world, but rather to the Word of God, in order to be, in accordance with their vocation, true prophets of the Most High. In today's gospel we listen to the Great Prophet, the unique Prophet: Christ, who invites us, in the gentleness of his Heart, to bear our daily cross, in order to thus follow him as Witness and Prophet.
The Prophet Jeremiah complains. He dares to indulge in grumbling before the Lord. It is human to do so, we might say. And we would be right. But the vocation of a Prophet is not merely human: it is also, and first, supernatural! When God calls a human being to carry out a mission, no matter what it might be, he gives him grace, an almighty gift that comes from him and from him alone. And then God gives him even more grace, in order to sustain him in his mission. And so on throughout his mission.
At certain moments, human nature tries to rebel, especially when the mission is arduous, difficult, overwhelming in every respect. But the grace of God is always there, being offered to the Prophet. This is why, after having said: "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name", he cries out: "There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." (Jer 20:9)
What else could Jeremiah have done, if not respond to God's love - grace! - with his own love, manifested by his faith in the divine Word? For all eternity, the Lord loves Jeremiah, just as he loves each of the elect with all his Heart: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jer 1:5)
Rom 12:1, I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2, Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Whether it be Jeremiah or another Prophet like Isaiah, or Saint Paul or another Apostle like Saint Peter, all of them were witnesses of Christ and of eternal Life: They denounced the evil lives of the men and women of this world, in order to try to convert them to God and to get them to practice, like them, a life that is good, perfect, acceptable to the Lord. This is what Saint Paul recommends to the Romans in this Sunday's second reading: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2)
Among all of these Prophets, let us recall Saint John the Baptist. A perfect witness, a perfect model for all Christians, he announces the coming of the Messiah into the world and indicates him by name, saying: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29) The last Prophet of the Old Covenant, John the Baptist shows us, in brief, all the power, all the vigor, but especially all the holiness of the Prophets who preceded the coming of the Lord into the world. Moreover, the Eucharistic liturgy of the feast of Saint John the Baptist proposes to us the reading of Jer 1:4-10 and Is 49:1-6 for the Mass of the eve and of the day respectively.
All Prophets, whether of the Old Covenant or of the New, underwent or must expect to undergo the same experience as Jeremiah: they were seduced by the Lord! "O Lord, thou hast seduced me, and I was seduced; thou art stronger than I, and thou hast prevailed." (Jer 20:7) The Prophet Amos, who lived in the eighth century before our era, was no exception to this law of the almighty Love of the Word of God, for he said: "The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8)
Mt 16:21, From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22, And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, «God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.» 23, But he turned and said to Peter, «Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.» 24, Then Jesus told his disciples, «If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25, For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26, For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27, For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.»
Seduced by the Lord! All the Prophets were seduced by the Lord! The same was true of each and every one of the Apostles: all of them were seduced by Christ! But, later on, there were also moments of discouragement, or even weakness, as happened in the case of Jeremiah. We see one of these moments in today's gospel: Peter is full of ideas from the world of his time concerning the Messiah and he could not stand to hear Jesus announcing his coming downfall and death.
The Messiah was supposed to have been a political, powerful and dominant Messiah, one who would expel all invaders from Palestine. Such was the thought of the people of the world. Such was not the thought of God: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." (Mt 16:23)
Let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary for the grace and the strength to bear our little daily cross! Through Her, may the Holy Spirit guide the entire Church to follow Christ, Messiah and Prophet!