Jeremiah is known as a fiery prophet of the Lord. How might the world be different if we were all as inflamed with a passion for God's word?
as interpreted by Deborah
O Lord, you enticed me, and I was seduced; you ravished me, and I succumbed.
And now I am a scandal, a source of mockery — for the moment I open my mouth, I cry out. Your words shoot forth in a violent stream, like lava from an erupting volcano; I cannot keep quiet. All I can talk about is You.
If I tell myself, “I won’t say anything about Him, I won’t even mention His name,” it is as if an inferno rages within me; my throat is in flames… It is impossible to contain.
God’s word reproaches me and mocks my silence day and night; a thousand whispers breathing fire, violence, and destruction.
Terrible danger lurks all around me! Even my close friends are waiting for me to stumble: “Perhaps he can be lured away, and we can convince him, and restore him to what he was.”
But God is with me like a dreadful warrior.
My persecutors will trip up and fail, and end in disgrace, ashamed of what they’ve done.
Almighty God, You challenge the righteous to live accordingly, You know the content and quality of every heart and mind. Please let me see You punish my enemies.
Praise God, the Holy, the Everlasting, who saves those in need from the power of evildoers.
The prophet Jeremiah, never one to mince words, describes his experience of God as a seduction: a passionate, visceral, intimate encounter. It was overwhelming, all-encompassing, transforming. It touched the very core of his being, setting his soul on fire.
As firefighters say about a conflagration so intense that they have to stand back, he’s “fully involved.” Jeremiah can never return to what he was before; he is inflamed with the sense of God: it’s all he can talk about, all he can think about. And he wants — no, he needs — to tell everybody he meets.
It is a compulsion. To remain silent would cause a meltdown; the power of the Divine word burns within him: as he describes it, “it is impossible to contain.”
In a word: he’s become a darned nuisance. A religious fanatic who insists on bringing God into every conversation.
Jeremiah’s buddies try to reason with him and bring him to his senses. They want their old friend back again; this obsession with the Divine has made him nearly unrecognizable, and not much fun to be with. “Come on now, Jerry, dial it back a bit. There are other things in life besides God.”
You can guess how well that went over.
The prophet erupts in blazing anger. God is All in All, the Author of Creation, the Beginning, the End, the Eternal, the Source, the Power, the Glory!!!! These people are not friends but persecutors, demanding that he cut himself off from the Beloved, that he sever his Life line. He would not — and could not — do so: the power of the Divine boils up inside him, relentlessly. For Jeremiah to keep silent was as impossible as holding back the flow of a volcano.
Yet it was tempting.
The lure of simpler times, when his soul and spirit were placid and peaceful, when he wasn’t compelled to constantly think about God and talk about God and yearn for God must have been great. So great, in fact, that Jeremiah prayed for relief, casting those who tried to restore him to his former condition as evildoers, and denouncing them in the most emphatic (fiery, of course) terms.
Is it any wonder that people avoided Jeremiah? Would you want to spend your time with some guy who talked about God incessantly — and never, ever anything else? After a while that gets pretty old.
Besides, there’s so much else to talk about! Politics, health care, housing prices, food, fashion, films and television… you know: interesting stuff.
But no, there’s old Jeremiah the wet blanket (well, maybe an electric blanket) with his constant harping on “God’s will”; calling for peace and justice, mercy and compassion, concern for those in need, love for our neighbors, blah, blah, blah. Endlessly. Ceaselessly. That’s all he thinks about.
And anything will set him off. He brings God into every discussion, makes God the centerpiece of all that we say and do and hope for and believe. Everything. For Jeremiah, God’s will must be our Ultimate Concern, and all else pales into insignificance.
What kind of life is that?
As a matter of fact, it’s the kind of life we’re supposed to be leading: one that makes God’s will our first priority. We’re supposed to be “a holy people”; mindful of the grace-infused nature of all creation, honoring the sacrament of our lives and the lives of others. We are to work for justice, love kindness, and remember that we aren’t God (c.f., Micah 6:8).
As a faithful people, we are to behave as if what God wants matters. Seriously. All of the time. Not just on Sundays or when we’re saying our prayers. In all we say and do and hope for and dream of.
It turns out that it is Jeremiah who is the infinitely practical one, not those “reasonable” friends who want him to quiet down and conform. They are the voices of temptation, enticing us to go along to get along, and put all of that God business on the back burner.
But we are called to follow the Way of the Lord all of the time. Even when it isn’t convenient. To do less is to allow hatred and injustice to flourish; to surrender our vocation, to sever our Life line.
The voices of temptation (which are often inside our own heads) want us to relax and not worry about what is “right” for a while. After all, it can be downright exhausting to be mindful all of the time. It is easier, you know, to just chill.
But the word of God is to be proclaimed at all times and in all places: in face-to-face meetings and text messages, in check-out lines and waiting rooms, in bike lanes and bars and coffee shops, on city sidewalks and in parking lots, in classroom discussions, phone conversations, government legislation, and Facebook postings, and even while driving in traffic. Everywhere. To everyone. Always.
This doesn’t require any overt proselytizing: we needn’t go tagging our emails with bible verses, erecting billboards, or inviting people to church. If our lives are fueled by God’s gracious compassion, if our hearts are on fire with holy love, if we act kindness, seek justice, and embody mercy, we won’t have to do any preaching; the Divine Word will say all that needs to be said.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
If your heart is aflame with God’s love, people will be drawn to the warmth.
"Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words."
~ St. Francis of Assisi