Friday, April 3, 2009

The LORD Is With Me, And HE Is My Defender!

Jeremiah 20:7-13

Jeremiah speaks to the one true God:

LORD, you overpowered me, and I surrendered to you. You seduced me, and I allowed myself to be seduced. Now, people laugh at me, and no one pays attention to what I say. I hear them whispering among themselves: “He’s terrifying us. Let’s turn him in to the authorities!” I used to have friends, but now they are watching for me to stumble, so they can take revenge on me.

But I am confident that the LORD is with me, and He is my defender. My detractors will stumble and fall, and in their failure, they will be put to shame.

LORD of Angel Armies, you test the just, you probe minds and hearts. Allow me to witness the revenge you wreak on them, since I have placed my trust in you.

Sing to the LORD, and praise Him! He has rescued the life of the humble from the power of the wicked!

John 10: 31-42

The Jews (aroused by the Pharisees and Teachers) picked up rocks to stone Jesus.

Jesus answered them: “I have shown you good works which come from the Father. For which of them are you planning to stone me?”

They responded: “It’s not for any good work that we are stoning you, but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself out to be God.”

Jesus: Isn’t it written in you law, “I said, you are gods”? Scripture calls the people to whom the word of God was given, and Scripture can’t be denied. So then, how can you say that someone who was anointed and sent into the world by God blasphemes for calling himself a Son of God?

Let me put it this way: If I don’t do God’s work, don’t believe me. But if what I do comes from God, if you don’t believe what I say, acknowledge that what I’m doing is God’s work. And, if what I do is good, and you see it as the work of God, maybe you’ll understand that the Father is in me, and that I am in the Father.

They then tried to capture him, and put him under arrest. But he escaped from their trap. Then he went back across the Jordan, to the place where John first baptized, and he stayed there. Many people came to him, and said, “John did not work wonders, but everything he said about this one was true.” Many people there began to believe in him.


As the week we call “Holy” approaches, the liturgical readings continue to point out the relationship between the Law of Moses and the Law of God, and between the attitude of the Pharisees and Teachers (the defenders of the Law) toward Jesus.

Jeremiah’s mission was to prepare the people of Judah for a siege against them from the Babylonians. [In terms of modern political geography: Israel should defend its borders against Iraq.] Presumably, if the authorities of that time had paid heed to Jeremiah, there would not have been an invasion, and the people of Israel would not have spent a half century as prisoners and exiles in Babylon. But what might have happened is irrelevant. The city of Jerusalem was sacked, the Temple razed to the ground, and the people of Judah were carried off as slaves to the rulers and nobles of Babel.

This exercise in “If things weren’t the way they were, how would they have been different?” is a favorite pastime of the human mind. Done properly, it can be a good thing. That was the purpose of Jesus when he made references to the teaching of the Prophets, and the disasters that followed when God’s people paid no attention to them. To the contrary, if the people ignore the message of the prophets, it’s their own fault when disaster occurs.

That is, in fact, what happened to Jesus. “If things weren’t the way they were --- if the Pharisees, the Leaders of the People, and the Teachers of the Law had listened to his teaching, and understood God’s warning, and His promise – how would the history of the world have changed?” It is, as the philosophical part of my mind keeps reminding me – and I pass on to you – a hypothetical situation about events in an unreal past -- or, to put it a bit more simply, “If things were different, they wouldn’t have been the same. But they weren’t different. And that’s that!”

There is another, more subtle, and for most, if not all of us more pertinent message here. God is an eternal being. There is no past, no present, no future in God’s knowledge of the history of His people. To put it in historical terms: God knew that the first man and woman He created would be sinners. God knew that the people of Israel would accept His law on Sinai, and then go about breaking all of his commandments, because their desire for pleasure, or for profit, or for power would be more persuasive to them.

God knew that when His Son came into the world as the Son of Mary, to redeem the world, He would be rejected by the Pharisees, the Teachers of the Law, and the Leaders of the People, and the people (even his own disciples) would abandon him, and He would be scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified, and put to death. But God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the people of the world might be redeemed.

That brings us to the final point in this meditation: What was true of the people of Israel two thousand years ago is just as true for you and me. We strive to obey the commandments, to love one another as God has loved us, to do what is right and avoid what is not. But we are not particular successful in that endeavor – in our own estimation.

The Temple Priests and the Leaders of the People in Jeremiah’s time were not evil: Their purpose was to interpret God’s law and establish good order among the people, according to their own lights. The Pharisees, Temple Priests and Leaders of the People in Jesus’ time were not evil: Their purpose was – the same as the previous group. They did what you and I do, as ordinary folk or as Priests and Teachers of the Law (speaking for myself).

God doesn’t expect me to interpret his law perfectly, just because I’m a canon lawyer. God doesn’t expect me to live a perfectly holy life, just because I’ve been ordained his priest. God knows I’m imperfect! God knows you’re imperfect! So, don’t try to be perfect! If you do, you will never achieve the goal, and your presumption (if I can cooperate fully with God’s grace) will morph into despair (no matter how I try, I can’t overcome these sinful habits and tendencies).

The “bottom line”: Try to do better tomorrow than you did yesterday. And if today turns out to be not as good as yesterday, try do to better tomorrow than you do today.


Anonymous said...

What? NO comment or sense of fellowship for your old AOL AAP buddies? Typical. Some folks actually were blind enough to follow you, and I am sure they are looking for some solace from you here. Sad indeed. Block this as you will Johnny boy, but know this: Peggy is probably not the only one without a home right now, you can AT LEAST give them some comfort via your silly blog.
Have fun you pathetic egomaniac.
The Legend

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Isaiah 50:4-7 (First Reading, Palm Sunday Liturgy)