22nd Sunday of the Year A

The letter D

I have always been a reader of, and remain fascinated by words. Have you ever noticed the power of words, and how a word can sum up how we are feeling?
How many negative mood states we can have - and how many of these begin particularly with the letter D?

We can be depressed, disappointed, disillusioned, disaffected, despondent, dismayed, in disarray, debilitated, defeated, deflated, dejected, in dread and doubt.

These are just a sample and I am sure you could think of more!

These negative states may be due to marital, domestic, financial, employment circumstances, ill health, bereavement, as well as the continuing downturn in the economy, the drip feed of bad news in the media, as well as the undeniable crisis conditions in the Church.

We must not rule out entirely the other D source - the demonic, diabolical, deranged, devil who wants us in fact - who has an agenda for us - to be deterred, discouraged, and distracted as we strive to remain in our important D role as self-denying Disciples of Jesus Christ – the demon who ultimately wants us to give into the most awful d words of all - to despair and be damned in eternal darkness!

Jeremiah, the prophet in today’s First Reading, experienced what might be called ‘the threshold of despair.’ It was a pivotal crisis of faith moment for him so beautifully and poignantly recorded and worth reading often. Perhaps he had many more of these in his past and after he reflected here in this passage on them. We know we do have these moments. We too are called to be prophetic by virtue of our baptism. And like Jeremiah we experience derision, criticism and hostility when we speak up for the truth and when our statements or way of life (not modelled on the behaviour of the world that we read about in the Epistle) are scrutinised and found to be a sign of contradiction. St Paul speaks elsewhere of ‘hardships worries, insults and persecutions for Christ’s sake’. To be a prophet is to suffer the fear of isolation when comfort, popularity and acceptance are overriding attractive alternatives.

Yet for all that, there was for Jeremiah as there is within us the unmistakeable, immovable abiding presence of the spark of the divine. God has left in all of us a desire for Him that no earthly happiness can match because we are body and spirit. Ultimately all our desires, be they natural or sinful inordinate desires, point to our desire for Him who is the source of all ultimate happiness. Jeremiah‘s hesitation and thoughts of giving up his call are momentary. The love of God within him is too great and outweighs any fleeting happiness to be gained by a life of fashionable conformity to worldliness. The fire of the love of God burning in his heart could not be quenched. He perseveres.

These are sentiments also beautifully reflected in the Psalm at today’s Mass:

O God you are my God for you I long
For you my soul is thirsting
My body pines for you like a dry weary land without water...

God alone can satisfy our longings. We cannot deny his Presence in ourselves because we are made in His image and likeness. But the source of strength and determination as we once more lift up our heads, and our crosses, is in Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. The psalmist is prophetic when he continues:

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory...your right hand holds me fast.

How often we can gain comfort in church in time spent before the Real Presence of Christ and the lit red sanctuary lamp reminding us of this ‘living flame of love’ as St John of the Cross puts it.

There is a stirring line in the Divine Office – in the Office of Readings for the Dead (!) which I love to recall often:

‘Anything that happens in our lives without Christ is mere emptiness’.

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