The prophet Jeremiah, as is his mission, continues to warn the people of impending disaster if they do not change their ways (Jer 7:23-28). Here, likely just a few years before the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent Babylonian Captivity, the Lord uses a prophet as He has done many times before (this is mentioned in v. 25) to implore the people to “Listen to my voice…Walk in all the ways that I command you” (v. 23). He seems to despair of a conversion as the people. Yahweh has been pursuing them for hundreds of years, ever since their liberation from Egypt, yet their obstinacy grows as they have “done worse than their fathers” (v. 26).
Things seemed to have changed little in the past 2600 years. Particularly striking are the words following the headline, the last line of this excerpt: “Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech” (v. 28). Yes, the word “faithfulness” is disappearing, and this is because the “Word” Himself is also being made to disappear. Jesus, the Word of God, is becoming less and less welcome in our nation, and more so in many other nations. How can our society grow in faith and faithfulness when Christianity is increasingly excluded from the public square, ignored, or worse, derided? Religious freedom may be enshrined in the first part of our First Amendment, but opportunities to erode it are constantly being pushed in our courts and in the court of public opinion. Do we think the timeless word of God that we read in Jeremiah does not apply to us today? Having the fullness of Divine Revelation, and having nearly 2000 years to allow it to sink in, we will be held to a more severe accounting than the Israelites. I am reminded of Jesus’ dire warning:
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Mt 10:14-15; also see Lk 10:13-16)
I do not wish to lose sight of the fact that all these readings are being proclaimed during Lent. They are meant to prepare us for Passion Week. Jesus took on our sins but also all sins from the beginning of time until the end of time. We are also preparing for the joy of the Resurrection where Jesus’ victory over death is completed. No matter what happens in this world, Good wins in the end. We have hope if we have faith and this manifests itself in love. Love will transform the world through the power of the One who is Love. There is no room for hate or despair. There is room to be realistic, though. We see the trajectory of our culture and we are obligated to counter it in thought, word, and prayer. Let us be steadfast in building up the Kingdom of God and defeating the prince of hell who “prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”