Today’s first scripture is an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, one of the most beautiful books the Bible, made all the more beautiful because it is so sad.
Jeremiah spoke the Lord’s word of truth to the Israelites immediately prior to the catastrophe of 587 BC. Remember, it was in the year 587 BC that the last remnant of the once mighty Kingdom of David came to a devastating end. The armies of Babylon conquered Jerusalem, sacked the city, executed the royal family and destroyed the temple. Everything that had been of utmost importance to the Israelites was lost.
Jeremiah warned the Israelites of the impending catastrophe, but the people were enamored of their false gods and pre-occupied with worldliness, they would not listen.
Jeremiah’s persistent warnings did not make his popular. For the ruling elites, he seemed to be fomenting fear and rebellion. As such, Jeremiah had enemies who plotted against him and even sought to have him killed.
The prophet Jeremiah is understood by the Church to be a figure or type that foreshadows Christ. The sufferings of the prophet are likened to the sufferings of Christ. Christ in his suffering and death is like a “lamb led to slaughter”. Sadly, there were many who found Christ so contemptible, that they sought and succeeded in having him tortured and killed.
Our refusals of Christ might seem far less dramatic than what Christ experienced on the cross, but our “no” to Christ is as problematic and potentially devastating. We cannot hurt Christ with our refusal, but we can hurt those whom he loves, and many of us do, and often our worst refusals of Christ are not so much direct, but indirect- in refusing to love what Christ loves, we refuse to love Christ.
Christ meets our refusals, as he did on the cross, with his willingness to forgive, his willingness to offer us yet another chance. As his love turns towards all who have refused him, he meets our refusals with mercy.
We can experience Christ’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in which the same word of forgiveness spoken by Christ on the cross and the same peace Christ offered in his Resurrection is offered to us. It is through our experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation that Christ turns his love towards all who have refused him, and he meets that refusal with his mercy.
Accepting the mercy of God in Christ can be difficult, for it means coming to terms with our truth, with the impact and consequences of our refusals of Christ, our refusals to love. Acceptance of the mercy of God in Christ also means living differently and seeking to love what Christ loves, which is not always an easy thing to do. One of the purposes of the Church Christ has established is to help us to love what is difficult, a truth about the Church that many do not always appreciate or accept.
The Gospel of John testifies that Christ provoked division, meaning that humanity’s narrowness of mind and heart, prevented many people from understanding who the Lord Jesus is and what he was all about. Much of the division happened because Christ resisted the categories that people would have imposed on him, or revealed that the categories were correct, but the manner in which they had been understood were wrong.
Christ will always meet us where we are at, but he will not arrive in our lives on our terms and in accord with the conditions we impose. Christ is God, and as God he is always, boldly and mysteriously himself. We don’t decide who Christ is, it is Christ who reveals to us who we are supposed to be.
It is in this revelation of who he is, and who he reveals we should be, that we are faced with a decision- will we accept him for who he reveals himself to be or refuse him? We must decide. Are we for Christ or against him?