Scripture Study -- The Book of Jeremiah

This reflection focuses on Chapters 1 and 2 of Jeremiah. For daily Scripture Study that follows the daily readings in the Mass, see Today’s Scripture Teaching on our front page index or click on the blue.

The Book of Jeremiah, according to the introduction in the New American Bible, combines history, biography, and prophecy. It portrays a nation in crisis and introduces the reader to an extraordinary leader upon whom the Lord placed the heavy burden of the prophetic office. Jeremiah was born about 650 BC of a priestly family from the village of Anathoth, near Jerusalem. While still very young he was called to his task in the thirteenth year of King Josiah (628), whose reform, begun with enthusiasm and hope, ended with Josiah’s death on the battlefield of Megiddo (609) as he attempted to stop the northward march of the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco. After the death of Josiah, the old idolatry returned. Jeremiah opposed it with all his strength. Arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace were his lot.

Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet at best. For one thing, he did not have the temperament of a prophet. He had a morose personality that was given to overly-dramatic demonstrations. For another thing, he was fully aware of the reception that the prophets were given by king and commoner alike. The prophets either spent their lives on the run or were ostracized as traitors and troublemakers. Not surprisingly, Jeremiah raised all of the objections to answering God's call that he could think of. He argued that he was too young for anyone to take him seriously. He complained that he lacked the gifts of speech that would compel an audience to listen. But God would have none of his excuses. He had marked Jeremiah out from his mother's womb and would give him what he needed to fulfill his prophetic calling.

We could take a page from Jeremiah's story. We offer a lot of excuses to God and to ourselves for not living a more courageous and committed life. Like Jeremiah, we plead youth and inexperience. We point out our weaknesses and confess our lack of talent. But God isn't interested in excuses. He wants us to do the best we can with what we have. That's all he asks of us. He does not expect us to be miracle workers. He does not ask us to do the impossible. All God asks of us is that we are found faithful in using the talents and taking advantage of the opportunities we do have. If everyone did his or her little part, then the face of the world could be changed. If we just set our excuses aside for a change and played our small part, God's work on this planet would get done.

The prophet Jeremiah portrayed God as a husband longing for the passion his wife has long since forgotten. The prophets drew analogies for God's relation to Israel from every area of life. God was portrayed as King and Commander as well as Husband and Father. The more personal analogies were invoked to lend moral urgency to their appeals. The idea of God as a husband in a marriage that had grown habitual and sterile captures a pathos in the love of God for his people that would otherwise be overlooked. Kings do not love their subjects. Commanders do not cherish their followers. But fathers and husbands are another matter. They sacrifice for their children. They long for their mates. In either case, a relationship without ardor grieves the heart of God.

Perhaps it’s time to rekindle our old enthusiasms. Remember what it was like when approaching the altar at communion filled your heart with awe? Remember what it was like when prayers were meant rather than just said? What about changes in our other relationships? How long has it been since you took your mate on a date? How long has it been since you told a friend how much you care for them? How long has it been since you felt a passion for the needs of the poor? When was the last time you went to a museum and took in the beauty of art? Is there anything worse than losing a sense of life's wonder? Of love's miracle? Of childhood's promise? Of old age's dignity? It's not too late to renew those old enthusiasms which made each day an adventure with God and the people of God. GLP

This reflection is from the July 1998 Edition of the San Francisco Charismatics (ISSN 1098-4046).

To read other selected articles from the July 1998 edition of the San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.