For I hear many whispering:
“Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
“Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him,
and take our revenge on him.”
But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous,
you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
Sing to the Lord;
praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hands of evildoers.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
In these words from Jeremiah, we are provided with a glimpse into his interior life, or more accurately, the turmoil in his life, of being surrounded by fear and doubt. It seems clear that in the gospel reading today, those fears and doubts take human form, as the very people to whom Jesus had earlier ministered. How must Jesus have felt when he was confronted by these people? In response to their hostility, Jesus replies: “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The good works that Jesus has performed, he claims come from the Father. Immediately, he directs them towards the source.
Both of these passages, the first reading from Jeremiah, and the story of Jesus confronting his persecutors, work so well together. As I reflect on how Jeremiah must have felt, I am struck by how I too frequently allow myself to feel this way: allowing my worst fears, my deepest doubts, to denounce me. I know what it is like to speak with these fears, to try to reason with them. There are two strategies I tend to employ at the beginning (neither of which works particularly well). Either I will try to rationalize the fears away, or (worse still) I will try to ignore the fears.
Neither of these strategies has worked for me. In consciously trying to ignore whatever fear or doubt is presenting itself, I end up, by the very act of trying to ignore it, constantly thinking of the fear or doubt (try not to think of a white elephant if someone tells you: “Do not think about a white elephant!”). And by trying to rationalize the fears or doubts, I end up allowing them to be the ones directing my inner life. Either way, by hearkening to my fears and doubts, I allow these the fears and doubts to become my counselors. And to top it all off, I cannot even blame my situation on my fears, since I am the one who chose to allow them that role in my life!
In every single case, I found relief only by turning towards the Divine, turning away from the darkness and shadows of fear and towards the light. Only then could I could see clearly. Jesus directed his persecutors towards the Father. As the psalm today says: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.”
This fear and doubt that you are facing in your life is not your battle to fight. Turn towards the Father, look to him, call to him, and know that he will hear your voice.
-Mr. James Page S.J. teaches theology at St. Louis U. High.
“In my distress I call upon the Lord, and he hears my voice.”
Please share the Good Word with your friends!