MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on a real relationship with God. Does God tolerate our complaining? Do saints and holy people struggle with life, love, depression, suicide? Is holiness for the few or the many? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please read Jeremiah 20:7-9. #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #Suicide #Holy #TheLittleFlower #GodWhereAreYou
MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/31/2014 The 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Jeremiah 20:7-9.
I am so annoyed at this passage from Jeremiah. I am not annoyed by the passage from Jeremiah, I am annoyed that we have only this little snippet that fits neatly into some domesticated faith. It is a faith that is fully housetrained: it never does a number on the carpet of our life. This domesticated faith never has a chewed up slipper or two. It is a domesticated faith that smiles all the time as if nothing is totally wrong,
“Oh, listen to that cute little passage from Jeremiah! Jeremiah said that God ‘duped’ him! Oh, silly little man! God is always right and we are always safe when we follow him.”
It is a domesticated faith that we take out for a walk every day so that our neighbors can see it and know that we feed it. It is a domesticated faith that only has three verses from a 14 verse narrative that fully describes the desperate straits that Jeremiah is in. But we, as a church, can only stomach to hear three little verses because then the lector is done before we know it and we can move on to something more hopeful.
Let’s face it, for most of us, especially us who are Catholic, when we think or speak of evangelism, we are really talking about something that is suburban, doesn’t go anywhere at night and leaves the wealthy, corporations and others who could be of our benefit alone. This passage throws up one big hair ball on the kitchen floor of domesticated faith if it were really to let loose.
The words are spoken by a man who made the local priest angry at his prophecy from the Lord. The prophecy that Israel was debaucherous and chasing after other gods under his priesthood was too much for the priest to bear. As a result, Jeremiah was struck by the priest, then put in the stocks at the gate of Benjamin for all to see what happens to someone who prophecies against what everyone likes to hear. Jeremiah is not exactly the sweet smiling and smooth squinting Joel Osteen. Here Jeremiah is being tortured by the very people to whom he was called to go and speak the Word of the Lord.
No Crystal Cathedral for Jeremiah. No worldwide television network. No 25,000 person arena to hear his preaching. All that there is for Jeremiah is constant criticism by his foes at how slow God is to do what the Lord told him he was going to do. So, here we have Jeremiah with his head, legs and arms in a contraption called the stocks to be left out day and night as a lesson to himself and others. This is not the sanitized sanctuaries of suburban America.
This past week CatholicHouseHold.com published a piece about the uncensored biographies of St. Therese of Lisieux, otherwise known as “The Little Flower” who wrote what we call “the Little Way.” St. Therese is depicted as always taking things in stride. She is always comfortable because she simplifies everything in life and avoids the complications of sin. She smiles at a nun she cannot stand because she is thinking of something funny about the other nun. The other nun then blesses the Little Flower with a greater love than she could ever have. Yes, our good, sweet Little Flower, who never gets mad and contemplates everything before she acts.
The CatholicHouseHold.com article talked about the dark side to St. Therese. In the article, it points out that St. Therese contemplated suicide. I can hear those who were just so thrilled by the great peace of the introverted nun gasping for breath. I, for one, am thrilled about the disclosure. I am not thrilled about the pain the poor Little Flower had to endure. I am thrilled that the sanitized version of the saint who could roll with absolutely everything showed that there was great inner struggle and angst like the rest of us. I love it because it is so like Jeremiah.
This passage for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time is the sixth passage in the first 20 chapters where Jeremiah is in anger and in despair. The usual cause of Jeremiah’s anger and despair is not someone else, something else, the evil people, or the bad things. No, the real cause of Jeremiah’s anguish and anger is his vocation.
What?! Aren’t we always read these great words about Jeremiah’s vocation as the archetype for everyone’s vocation, “I knew you before you were formed in the womb?” Yes, we are.
It is a fact that the Church has always killed its prophets. From Jeremiah to Jesus, the Church has always been a place of domestication of faith so that everything is systematic and fits under St. Thomas Aquinas tied in a neat little bow. It kicked out Martin Luther for wanting the scriptures and Mass in the vernacular and people to have a zeal for their faith. It took 500 years, but we now have the scriptures in the vernacular and the Mass in the language of the people. It was Jesus who said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem who kills the prophets…” (Luke 13:34). John Henry Cardinal Newman was basically put into exile until finally, late in life, Leo XIII called him back to be a great influence in Vatican I. Henri de Lubac was forbid to write theology for ten years, until he came back and was the main theological voice of Vatican II.
Jeremiah’s complaining is what I love. It shows incredible confidence in his relationship with God. You don’t complain to someone you think is going to retaliate or set you up to be hurt again. It is the best of friends, the closest of companions, who say to each other, “WHAT were you THINKING!” Jeremiah is modeling a great intimacy with God for us. There is an amazing intimacy that we can have with God in prayer, then. We don’t have to go to God with these little slavery prayers:
‘Oh, Massa’, I am lowly and a worm, Massa’…’
No! We can go to God with prayers that are indicative of how we feel about how slooooow it seems God can be to rescue us from things we did for him and are now embarrassed.
Ministry is a very difficult vocation. You study for years, go through every kind of psychological process, probing into your personal life, living with next to nothing in the bank and then when you get out and start to work, everyone acts like their opinion is just as good as yours. When God calls you to proclaim an injustice, someone will follow you around, just waiting for something they can say to make you look bad. People assume you are not knowledgable about much because you “took theology” instead of something like “science.” I had just as much education and interning as a physician when I was ordained in the United Methodist Church.
Or, what about lay people who answer the call in their jobs and get fired? I know of many people who have gone to work for church organizations thinking they could live their faith openly, only to find God’s people firing them because they were too “open about their faith.”
Complaining to God should not be a bad thing, in fact, I am encouraging you to ask God this question, “Lord, I thought you loved me! Why did you let THAT happen?” That is exactly what Jeremiah is doing. You should, too.
The fact that St. Therese contemplated suicide says that faith is real and is lived out in a real context. It shows that everyone can be a holy person. Holiness is not just reserved for those who can sanitize and domesticate faith. Holiness is for those of us who get our hands dirty, stick our feet in our mouths, speak uncomfortable truths to the world, and speak uncomfortable truths to the Church. It is a truth that God shows no partiality.
This is the part of the reflection where I have to say that there are people who have a wonderful life being holy. There is no need for YOU to cause trouble with the injustices you see in your Church. I am not going to do that this week. I am going to warn you, though. If you do proclaim uncomfortable truths to hypocrites in power, they will do to you what the priest Pashhur did to Jeremiah. Yet, you should not fear the one who can kill the body, but the One who can kill the body and the soul. You will do it anyway, I know.
How do I know? I know because prophets are not at rest until the word they have come to proclaim is proclaimed. Prophets like Jeremiah hate the consequences of what happens to people who proclaim for God. God allows us to have the fight with him. He loves us. He understands and hates it with us. Truth is, whatever God has for us to say burns in our bones until we say it. We grow weary trying to hold it in, which is a good thing. It is a good thing because as long as there is something that people, especially the Church, are doing that everyone is covering up, the more the innocent get crucified.
Have you been called to speak for the Lord? Get ready. You are in for one self-deprecating ride. You will know humility like your skin. You will meet the devil face to face in people who are wearing the warmest smiles. But, you will proclaim, and you will be at peace with that and in love with God. Amen? Amen.
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