Sunday Sept 3, 2023
Book of Jeremiah 20: 7 – 9; Romans 12: 1 – 2; Matthew 16: 21 – 27
The author of the letter to the Hebrews, probably from personal experience, wrenched out
this enigmatic but true statement: “It is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God.”
True prophets are classic examples of those who have fallen into the hands of God. Of all
the Old Testament prophets, it is Jeremiah who experiences most acutely the pangs of
such an experience as passively falling into the hands of God. Feeling cheated, he boldly
accuses God of deception. Jeremiah resists, but he is too feeble for the strong seducer
God, who invariably prevails. It is abduction and seduction in one action.
By seducing, God fulfills his purpose of proclaiming his messages through his prophet
Jeremiah. Jeremiah experienced opposition an rejection from his people because, those
prophecies he uttered were by the influence of God. However he felt he could not control
what he spoke. Many of us speak words that hurt other people eternally. Others perform
their duties and life’s activities that provoke jealousy, hatred, division, sorrows, and harms
in themselves and others. Let us not think that all these things we do or speak come out of
God’s seduction or his overpowering as the prophet experienced.
What made Jeremiah feel so dejected and deceived? It was the burden of his God-given
mission. His mission was to call a spade a spade, by pointing out rottenness, corruption in
high places, in sacred sanctuaries, among people who were supposed to be shining
paragons of virtue, champions of justice. And so when he cries out ‘violence’ and
‘destruction’, he is mocked and ridiculed by the powerful and their mercenary minions.
For a shy, sensitive soul like Jeremiah to be a prophet of God’s vengeance goes totally
against the grain. He is too innocent for the malicious machinations of his high-placed
adversaries. Groaning under the pressure of his menacing mission, he naturally feels
compelled to give it up, give up taking the name of and speaking in the name of the Lord.
He is tempted to ask, “Why expose oneself to such perils? Seal the mouth an retire into a
quiet place in peace.”
But no, he cannot. The seducer God is too strong and His grip firm and unrelenting. The
spirit that God has breathed into the prophet mercilessly urges him on and suffocates him
if he does not speak out boldly what God wants him to speak out. Caught between the
devil and the deep sea, Jeremiah laments in most pathetic tones and, in utter exasperation,
spews out violent bitter, angry words, “Cursed be the day I was born…why was I born?
Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace?” (20: 14 – 18). It is a
classic death wish, the passion of a reluctant prophet.
The prophetic mission of Jeremiah was his offering of himself ‘as a living sacrifice, holy
and acceptable to God’. And in today’s Gospel Jesus predicts His own passion, death and
resurrection, and demands from His followers renunciation of self, even of life. It is
terrible to fall into the hands of the living god!
Every Christian shares in the prophetic mission of Christ. It is the case all the more with
priests and religious. And the Second Vatican Council reiterates it in no uncertain terms.
So far, so good. But to say that every Christian is a prophet sounds as quaint as sextuplet
births! And if this is a queer exaggeration of a sick mind, look around and see who and
where are the prophets in the present-day Church.
It is a terrible thing to bear within one’s bosom the Spirit of God, truly terrible. Who
wants it, anyway?! Long ago, Moses hoped: “Would that all the Lord’s people were
prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num 11: 29). Would that you
and I receive the Lord’s Spirit… Are we ready to fall into the hands of God? Not yet…
Today we have to examine ourselves whether all that we speak and do come out of our
human selfishness or out of God’s seduction. If you are seduced by God, if you are
overpowered by God then be sure you will accept to float on the river of God’s will, ready
to bear the daily crosses and follow Jesus. When we are duped and trapped by God, as
Paul says in today’s second reading, we would offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy
and pleasing to God. We will discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing
Many times you hear from me the same complaints as those of Jeremiah. I personally feel
I am trapped and in a way seduced by the Master and King. This seduction has occurred
not dramatically but in a very subtle way. He seduced me and did not let me go out of his
grip, even though I tried several times and still I am trying to get out of his grab. Nothing
works out. He wants me to just float on his will-river. I am sure many of you feel the
same way. You know what I do in those moments of despair and powerlessness? I just
recite the Psalm 63 that we sang as response today and I feel that is the way to float on His
waters, as Jesus himself did: “O God, you are my God. For you I long! For you my body
yearns; for you my soul thirsts. Like a land parched, lifeless, and without water. So I
look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory. For you love is better than life;
my lips offer you worship!”