Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
Today’s first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah deserves to be read aloud. The deep agony, remorse and then hope that are so vividly proclaimed in this reading certainly resound with emotion that needs to be heard as well as read. When we hear the words "Woe to me, mother that you gave me birth…" Jeremiah’s agony and despair is so intense, that you can almost visualize his tears. Jeremiah pleads often for Jerusalem, but here he seems to be asking God for relief for himself, "…have I not served you for their good….why is my pain continuous….?" Jeremiah has done what God has asked of him and has been persecuted for it. You hear the frustration in his complaint and you hear his despair.
How often do we too ask, "Why me, God?"
And yet, as we hear what the Lord tells Jeremiah, we hear that there is hope – there is salvation. Remorse is what the Lord is calling him to; redemption is what he is promised. What a great message this reading is for us. Even in the worse despair, even when we feel there is just no way out of a dilemma, if we listen, we can hear the Lord telling us that there is hope, there is an answer. But, of course, the answer for us, as it was for Jeremiah, is not necessarily what we have in mind. In fact, the answer may lead us, as it does Jeremiah, to more suffering in God’s name. But what the Lord tells Jeremiah and us, "…in my presence you will stand." And that, of course, is the ultimate goal.
The Gospel also conveys a similar message. In the two parables, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven and he talks about treasure. These parables challenge us to identify what we see as our treasures. If God is our greatest, most precious treasure, perhaps the answer to our prayers may not be a sudden cure, immediate relief, or winning the lottery, but rather the answer may be in finding and standing before our God.
Mary Lou Butler ([email protected])is a former staff member and is now a member of the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center Board, Sierra Madre, California.