Archive for June 29th, 2018

Jeremiah 9Joy Out of Corruption

Friday, June 29, 2018

Jeremiah’s concern in this chapter of his prophecy is the corruption of the people; he describes it with vivid images.  They ready their tongues like a drawn bow; with lying, and not with truth, they hold forth in the land.  They go from evil to evil, but me they know not, says the Lord.  Rather than speak of trust and compassion, the following verses warn all to be on guard.  Even Jacob – whose name indicates that “he supplants” – is remembered as the brother who cheated his twin Esau out of his inheritance rather than the man who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel.  Here we read about perverse friends who are guilty of slander, and commit violence upon violence, deceit upon deceit.  We have all likely been touched by this kind of duplicity in which associates speak cordially while in their hearts they lay ambushes.  We may have participated in these ambushes knowingly or unknowingly.  Verses 1 through 8 give us a sad picture of a people who have turned away from God.

The verses that follow describe what has happened to the land once her people forget God.  Birds of the air, beasts of the land have all fled; the cities are a wasteland.  God evokes a funeral dirge from his people; the wicked have polluted everything they touch.  The intensity of the sadness increases, yet . . . as always with God there is a flicker of hope. As always with God good comes out of evil.  As always with God no harm goes unanswered with compassion.  And this is the reaction we are called to give as we read these dark passages; rather than sink into the pit of darkness as the wicked would wish, we are to rise in resurrection hope with the faithful who refuse to give in to iniquity.  As believers in a God who forgives, redeems and transforms, we are to do as St. Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2): Proclaim the word: be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.  Imagine the world of Jeremiah if enough people had united in a voice that called for goodness over corruption.  Imagine our world today if enough of us are able to animate one another to do good rather than succumb to evil.

At the close of this Chapter Jeremiah warns his contemporaries – and he warns us – that we ought not be smug, nor ought we believe that our own talents or powers have kept us from failure since our wisdom, strength and glory all come from God.   Even circumcision as a sign of faith becomes a hollow, worthless act if we refuse to turn in hope to God.  Returning to Paul’s letters we find in Romans 4 and 5 a similar statement concerning those who appear to live in the Spirit but who in fact do not – while there are many uncircumcised who act in the Spirit and are therefore justified through their faith.  Paul recommends that we not turn away from any suffering we experience because of our work in the Spirit because this kind of pain produces a perseverance, character and hope that also carry a peace that comfort bought with collusion and corruption can never give us.   If we are looking for any kind of guarantee of joy . . . we find it in the true Spirit of the Living God . . . and never in the dishonesty and complicity Jeremiah tells us about today.

And so we pray with Jeremiah and Paul: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man glory in his strength, nor the rich man glory in his riches; but rather, let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows God, knows that the Lord brings about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth.  And so rather than sink into despair at the corruption around us, we ask God to bring goodness out of this harm.  And we give thanks for the struggles that produce perseverance, character, and hope . . . a hope that does not disappoint, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.  Amen. 

Image from: https://www.pexels.com/search/joy/

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 29, 2011.

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