Archive for the ‘Jeremiah’ Category

The Day of Calamity

July 17, 2021

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today I will be speaking to you about why the Jewish calendar is different from our own, about why this Sunday is of special significance in Jewish history, and about the enduring faithfulness of our Lord towards his people.

Like many ancient cultures, the Jews kept a lunar calendar, while we, and most of the world today, follow a particular solar calendar. Our modern calendar is called the Gregorian Calendar, instituted by Pope Gregory XII in 1582. For the Gregorian Calendar, one orbit around the Sun makes one year, counted as 365 days (or 366 days in a leap year). The Jewish calendar, instead, is focused on the Moon: one cycle of the Moon through its phases makes one month, counted as 29 or 30 days. Because the cycles of the Sun and Moon do not perfectly match-up, particular dates on solar and lunar calendars do not line-up either. This means the dates of Jewish holidays and observances float around on the Gregorian calendar. Today, for instance, is the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av. The ninth of Av falls on July 18th this year, but next year it will land on August 6th.

Detail of Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez, 1867The “ninth of Av,” also known as Tisha B’Av, is no ordinary day for observant Jews, but a day of fasting and abstaining, because ninth of Av has seen multiple calamities in Jewish history. First, during the Exodus, when the twelve spies sent by Moses returned from scouting the Land of Canaan, most of them voiced negative reports, saying there was no way The Promised Land could be conquered. The Hebrews despaired and cried and refused to proceed. As a consequence, God made his people spend 40 more years in the desert until almost all the adults of that generation had died without entering The Promised Land. The next calamity came in the days of the Prophet Jeremiah, after the founding of the Kingdom of Israel. In the sixth century B.C., the Jewish Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem was destroyed by the conquering Babylonians. With that disaster, the Jews were forced to leave their homeland and resettle in the East, and this Babylonian Exile lasted about seventy years until a significant number of Jews were able to return. A third catastrophe occurred in 70 A.D., when the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in response to a Jewish revolt. Not one stone was left upon another, as Jesus had foretold about 40 years before it came to pass. All of these devastating catastrophes, all three of these traumatic, mournful events (the denial of The Promised Land and the destruction of the first and second Temples) are remembered as occurring over the ninth day of Av.

Each of these disasters flowed from the faithlessness or unfaithfulness of God’s people. All of the Hebrews in the Exodus had witnessed the Lord’s mighty power wielded against Egypt, yet they disbelieved that God would be with them and would enable them to enter the land he had promised to Abraham’s descendants. The Prophet Jeremiah in our first reading decries the shepherds of his day (that is, the leaders of the people) whose wickedness would lead to the fall of the nation and the scattering of the sheep. And before his Passion, Jesus once lamented: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.” Jesus foresaw how that generation’s rejection of their Messiah would be followed by disaster.

Yet, in the face of this faithlessness and unfaithfulness among God’s people, God remained faithful to them. The first generation of Hebrews who had left Egypt were too afraid to enter the Promised Land, but God did not void his covenant with them. While denouncing the bad shepherds who led to the Babylonian Exile, God promises to gather his scattered flock again. And even as Jesus Christ was foretelling doom for Jerusalem from rejecting the Messiah, he spoke of his own people’s conversion to faith in him one day: “I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

So what does all of this mean for you and me and the Church, the people of God’s New Covenant? Can calamities come to us? Yes – through our own unfaithful foolishness, or through the sins of others impacting our world; grave wrongs, tragic losses, painful sufferings, death. But when these calamities come, will the Lord still be with us? Yes. Through the Prophet Jeremiah he promised: “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands.” In today’s Gospel, “When [Jesus] disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” The Lord is our shepherd. He refreshes our souls. He guides us in right paths. Even when we walk through the dark valleys we need not fear evils, for he is at our side.

Last Sunday, a young woman named Sarah who graduated college five years ago, posted a beautiful tweet on Twitter that has been liked nearly 2,000 times. She wrote: “I looked at the crucifix at Mass today and saw love rather than death for the first time in my whole [dang] life.” Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world through the Cross. The Good Shepherd knows firsthand what it’s like to be a sheep like us. Jesus reassures us that he is with us and we need not be afraid. For whatever day of calamity may come, it is not the end of our story; the friends of God will rise again in glory.

Anointing Mass — Wednesday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

July 28, 2010

Today we listen to the prophet Jeremiah complain to the Lord,

Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?

Sometimes our trials tempt us to indignantly complain like Jeremiah, but every trial permitted by God is permitted for our good. Trials, patiently borne, sanctify us and help to save others.

It is right for us to pray for cures, as we do in the anointing of the sick. But if our trials are to continue this sacrament offers the grace to bear the weight of our trials, not alone, but with Christ.

Advent Penance Service

December 1, 2009

 The psalm says, ‘On the holy mountain is [Jerusalem], his city, cherished by the Lord. The Lord prefers the gates of Zion to all Israel’s dwellings. Of you are told glorious things, O city of God, [Jerusalem].’  (Psalm 87) The Lord God loved Jerusalem and lived within its walls. God dwelt there in a special way in His temple on Mount Zion.

The people of Jerusalem felt pretty special about having such close access to God, but this pride was often their greatest weakness. You see the people of Jerusalem imagined they had this holiness thing in the bag, being so close to the Lord and all. Imagine their shock when a prophet would come along to tell them that they were not so perfect as they thought. When God sent them the prophet Jeremiah, he told them:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may remain with you in this place. Put not your trust in the deceitful words: “This is the temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD!” Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place…”

Time and again, God sent prophets to Jerusalem to call them to conversion, but Jerusalem would persecute, imprison and kill them. But they did not convert.  And, in the lifetime of Jeremiah, their enemies (the Babylonians) conquered  the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple of God within it. We hear God’s feelings about all this through words of Jesus:

“Jerusalem… Jerusalem… you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Jesus’ words matter for us today too, because Jerusalem symbolizes our souls. At our baptism, God began to dwell in our souls as His temple, as His new Jerusalem. The psalm is speaking about your soul and mine when it says:

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! 
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates,
He has blessed the children within you.
He established peace on your borders,
He feeds you with finest wheat.   (Psalm 147)

Indeed, God has strengthened the bars of our gates, our defenses against evil. He has blessed the children, everything that is good and loveable, within us. He establishes peace on our borders, in our relationships with others. And He feeds us with the finest of wheat in the Eucharist. We should feel pretty special about having such close access to God, but we should not make the same mistakes as the old Jerusalem.

You and I can persecute God’s prophets too. We do it whenever we choose to rebel and sin against the good God wills for us. We do it whenever we kill the voice of conscience within us. We do it whenever we imprison the Holy Spirit’s movements within us to the confines of a tiny cell. We do it whenever ignore or refuse to listen to the teachers Christ has given for His Church.

When we are persecuting God’s prophets, we can even evict God’s presence from our souls through freely and knowingly committing a grave or serious sin. We are conquered by our enemy and the temple inside us is destroyed. And ‘behold, our house is abandoned, desolate; and we do not see Him again until we say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ What can do to help prevent this horrible estrangement from occurring?  And if it does occur, how can we ask the Lord God to return?

In the sacrament of reconciliation, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord. When we acknowledge this, He forgives our sins, and God joyfully dwells in His cherished city. Today, Jesus Christ calls your city to repentance and the conversion of your soul.