We must be fully committed to Jesus on our journey

08-14-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Sometimes we think the heroic figures of the Old Testament had easy lives. We imagine that the prophets were always honored and listened to no matter what. We tend to believe that they were most welcomed by the people to pronounce a message on behalf of God, even a negative message. Jeremiah was a prophet that the people listened to quite closely, but the people did not like what he had to say to them. He spoke to them when Jerusalem was under attack for a long period of time. He told them not to hold out; in fact, it was futile to hold out. He went further and said that God was handing them over to the Babylonians. The people of Jerusalem did not accept what Jeremiah said because he told them that God, their special god, was handing them over to the Babylonians. He informed them that no matter what they or their soldiers did, the Babylonians who were waiting outside the city would get them in the end. Adding that God was doing the handing over was a new and difficult message for the people to hear.

We need to remember that it was not a prophet’s vocation to decide on the message from God; it was his vocation to announce and deliver it. This message of Jeremiah also included the notion or idea that Babylon was acting as a servant to Yahweh. Clearly, we can understand why the Jewish leaders threw Jeremiah in a well to be rid of him and his message. The foreigner Ebedmelech the Cushite interfered and fished Jeremiah out of the well. Jeremiah was able to continue prophesying, although it was quite difficult for him. Jerusalem surrendered. Jeremiah went along to Babylon as an exile. We can be certain that Jeremiah must have wished it had not turned out the way it did.

From our Gospel story, we are able to understand that Jesus, too, at various times, hoped that the message He brings would not cause division and dissension. We see into the inner soul of Jesus in today's Gospel passage. This dramatic and emotional scene of Jesus is quite heavy and in some ways overwhelming. His outcry as he journeys to Jerusalem "How great is my anguish!" certainly disturbs our hearts and minds. He knows that his sacred mission will eventually, bring the fire that purifies and clarifies. Bear in mind Jesus is not intending harm or to cause death for anyone. Jesus is being similar to Jeremiah in his pronouncement.

At this point in the Church Liturgical Year, we are reading Gospel passages that are a collection of sayings, parables, and expressions attributed to Jesus as he embarked on his long journey to Jerusalem. Luke decided to use the image of a journey as a major way to help express the story and message of Jesus Christ.

In the earliest days of the church, before there was the highly structured church, the earlier and earliest believers faced difficult problems. Conversion to the Way of Jesus Christ meant not only a change of mind and heart, but often also a way of life. Families and friends ended up in disagreement and sometimes conflict. Relations were often changed; and sometimes severed. This passage makes clear that the problems that result from following Jesus and His message are not intended, instead, the passage is meant to say that simply we must be fully committed to Jesus on our journey, whatever that all entails. Today our journey in faith is much easier, although many times we do not realize this.