Like Fire Burning in our Hearts

Listen to these words from the prophet Jeremiah:  You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.  All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Jeremiah has been obedient to his call.  He has prophesied, he has spoken on behalf of God to God’s people.  Why is he the object of laughter? 

The Israelite people have turned away from God and are now worshipping strange gods, the gods of Ba’al.  They have turned away from the God who has blessed them abundantly to worship false gods.  So, Jeremiah prophesies in their midst.  He is warning them, come back to the Lord.  If you do not he will not protect you from the enemies rising up in the north. 

The people’s response to him is mockery and laughter.  And so Jeremiah cries out,  I will not mention [God], I will speak in his name no more. Jeremiah is so sick of the abuse he has taken after giving his life to God that he doesn’t want to speak anymore. But listen to how this reading ends: But then [God’s Word] becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it. I believe we are being challenged to consider when  are we called to speak up and witness for God.

Speaking up is not easy.  I think of a parent who is worried about the direction of their child’s life and eventually feels the burning fire to speak up and help their child. It’s not easy to correct your child because it will temporarily put strain on the relationship.  It would be easier to ignore the issue rather than speak up.  Or I think about those times when we are in conversation and it turns into Gossip.  And sometimes we begin to feel that burning fire within us to end the gossip, but its difficult and easier to say nothing…

And as a Christians our beliefs are not very popular today.  Consider our belief that life needs to be protected from conception to natural death.  Or our beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and immigration.  All of these are unpopular in our society.  All of these are scary topics to bring up in a world where so many strongly disagree.

And finally, its not easy just to speak about our faith but even at times to live it.  I think about Mass on Sundays and sports.  Now all of you know how much I love sports.  But it saddens me when families miss Mass because of these sporting events.  Why? Because often times these families wanted to go to Mass but it seemed that no other family on the team was going to Church that weekend, and so they chose not to go either. 

Friends, Jesus informs his disciples this weekend that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly … and be killed.  Not only that but he also tells his disciples that whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow [him].  In other words, we are called to speak up even if it is not easy.  All of us are called to be prophets today just like Jeremiah.  This is a call that we have all received from our Lord.  We have heard it in our Gospel, yes, but we have also been given this call at our baptism.  We are prophets in this world. 

We are called to give witness to God’s saving love.  That’s the point.  Think again of Jeremiah.  He has been the object of laughter and no longer wants to speak of God,  but then says, I cannot endure this fire burning within me so I must speak.  Friends, Jeremiah spoke because he believed God was trying to save the Israelite people through the words God had given him.  We speak today, because we desire to bring the Good News of salvation to our friends and families.  We speak, not because its easy, but because we love.  May the Eucharist we receive today give us the strength to be witnesses of God’s love in this world.  May we be willing to speak.

In Christ’s Friendship,

Fr. Stephen