Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24
In our Gospel reading at Sunday Mass last week (17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A), we listened to one of Matthew’s parables of the Kingdom. Jesus drew an example out of the merchant or the field worker, both of whom discover something of such great value that each sells all that he possesses in order to acquire the article of great value (the "treasure", the "pearl of great price").
The message is very straight forward: "there is nothing of any greater value for one’s life, and it is worth surrendering all that one has in order to possess it."
In today’s reading from Jeremiah, he asserts his claim that God has called him to prophesy to the people, to call them to repentance and to fidelity to the covenant they have with God. He is willing to surrender his life, should they reject his preaching and turn against him.
In the Gospel selection from Matthew, we hear the often told story of the death of John the Baptist, murdered at the instigation of Herodias, the sister-in-law of King Herod, whom he had married after the death of his brother.
It might be said that Jesus, in describing the commitment to the Kingdom of God, asks each of us to be willing to surrender all that we have in order to give ourselves to the Kingdom. What does it mean to surrender all that we have? Ultimately, as in the case of Jeremiah and John the Baptist, it means to proclaim the Kingdom of God’s Covenant even when we risk the antagonism and persecution of those who choose other gods. We know that it means the willingness to surrender one’s life.
Very recently in the news media, we have read and heard a comparison of the present bellicose events of the Near East, of African Nations, of Islamic states, with a new "Cold War," the stand-off that conditioned our mid-20th century international relations with Russia (USSR). Today, the stand-off is not only with modern Russia, but with other, more aggressive and terroristic governments and militias whose regard for human rights is not evident.
Who will raise the voice of Jeremiah, of John the Baptist, of Jesus? Who is willing to surrender all that he/she has in order to serve the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, to possess the "treasure" and "pearl of great price"?
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P., is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.