The leading men of Jerusalem spoke to the king. ‘Let this man be put to death: he is unquestionably disheartening the remaining soldiers in the city, and all the people too, by talking like this. The fellow does not have the welfare of this people at heart so much as its ruin.’ ‘He is in your hands as you know,’ King Zedekiah answered ‘for the king is powerless against you.’ So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the well of Prince Malchiah in the Court of the Guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the well, only mud, and into the mud Jeremiah sank.
Ebed-melech came out from the palace and spoke to the king. ‘My lord king,’ he said ‘these men have done a wicked thing by treating the prophet Jeremiah like this: they have thrown him into the well where he will die.’ At this the king gave Ebed-melech the Cushite the following order: ‘Take three men with you from here and pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the well before he dies.’
With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne. Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!
‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!
These are the words of someone who is in love with us.
That Someone, Jesus Christ our personal Lord and saviour, is on fire in His Heart – in love with each and everyone.
The readings this Sunday clearly point to Christ’s Passion and resurrection, prefigured by the person of the prophet Jeremiah who underwent his own share of rejection among his own people in his own time, who warned them to repent, and in today’s episode is liberated from the well, symbolic of the Lord’s resurrection for the tomb in the earth.
‘Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne’ (St Paul)
Jesus disregarded the public shame of the cross because it served a higher purpose that is, our liberation from sin and the promise of eternal life to all who accept Him.
We share in his passion in our baptism and benefit from it. But through baptism – the term that Christ used for His Passion – a word in Greek that literally means ‘immersion’ we too are called to partake in Christ’s prophetic role to the people of our own time as witnesses of His saving action in our own lives, and our own felt experience of Jesus’ liberating power through repeated confession and forgiveness of our sins, as well as the love we have felt in moving experiences of prayer.
As John Paul put it, ‘no one who has had a real encounter with Jesus Christ will keep it to themselves.’ It should be evident in our words and our works of service and charity to our neighbour.
There are, however, painful consequences to our prophetic witnessing role in society, as there were for Jeremiah and fulfilled in Christ’s rejection on the Cross – and that is often felt within the family circle. This is the ‘division’ that Our Lord refers to, a painful one that cuts through the most intimate bonds of family life, that delineates and divides and has often led in the past to persecution and even betrayal in divided loyalties. But more recently, how often people, especially mothers, have tearfully approached me, concerned and disconsolate about members of their family, and sometimes even their entire family who have abandoned the practice of their faith. How often I have officiated at the burial of a mother and I feel I have buried the last vestige of faith in that family with her.
I often commend them not only to intercession of our Blessed Lady and St Pio, but particularly to the Divine Merciful heart of the Saviour and indeed to Jesus’ own revelatory promise to St Faustina that even if only one member of a family be devoted to His mercy then that entire family will be saved. ‘Let us not lose sight of Jesus’. Faith in Him and His promises requires patience and perseverance.
Let us be mindful, too, of that promise when we say at the end of the rosary (and at the end of the Hail Holy Queen) to Our Lady Mother of Mercy:
‘Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we (and our loved ones) may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.’