Image: Pingo National Landmark near Tuktoyaktuk
Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. He knew that preaching the truth, to people who had no interest in hearing such news, could only lead to trouble for himself. Yet he found himself enticed by God and unable to say no to the job.
Jeremiah’s concerns about his new vocation were valid. In our first reading today we find that, while he may have signed on reluctantly, he did not hold back in sharing what the Lord gave him to say. He called out priests who were greedy and corrupt, he pointed out the worship of false idols and he highlighted the social injustice against the poor and the powerless. Its effect on his audience was just as he had predicted. They reviled him for exposing the flaws in their behavior to the light of day and they plotted his downfall.
One might expect that this would be a, “told you so moment”, where Jeremiah could resign his post in frustration, before finding a safe place to hide until things cooled down. But instead Jeremiah turned to God and prayed. He asked for strength to deal with the situation and he placed his trust in God to protect him while he continued the work that he had been called to do.
It’s not easy work being a prophet, standing up for unpopular ideas, speaking up when it would be much easier to stay silent. Yet that is the call to all of us who have been baptized into God’s family, where we have been anointed as priest, prophet and king.
We take our example from Jesus, who disturbed the peace of the people with his preaching. In today’s Gospel passage they are ready to throw stones at him because he will not relent in calling God his Father, and in continuing the work that he has been sent to do on his Father’s behalf. Despite the toll that it must have taken Jesus does not give up. Sustained by prayer he takes comfort in his connection with his Father and continues his way.
Jeremiah may have seen some converts in his time, those who heard his words and changed their ways. The Gospel tells us that despite those who wanted to condemn Jesus, many also believed in him. But a prophet is not buoyed up by numbers or success. The words of a prophet are simply seeds scattered on the ground where they will either take root or blow away. The reward comes simply in being faithful to the word of God.
Each of us has been called in our own way to be prophetic by sharing the truth of the Good News with love and conviction. Some may have the vocation of preaching like Jeremiah, but we all called to bear witness to the truth by how we love God and how we love our neighbor.
Turn to the Lord for strength, and he will be your shield, your help and your stronghold.