Jeremiah faces much opposition from the people. Note the line: “And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.” Sound familiar? Much like the political climate today. Opposition to a political figure will find whatever that person has said, past or present, to tear them down. It was no different in Jeremiah’s time or throughout human history.
Jeremiah’s prayer, however, is wonderful: “Heed me, O Lord…Remember that I stood before you to speak on their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.” Jeremiah does not pray for their destruction because of the opposition. Instead, he prays that God will spare them despite their evil intentions.
The prayer of Jeremiah shows much love for the people of Judah, much the same say Jesus continued to show love toward the Sons of Zebedee, rather than rebuke them, or their mother, for her request for her sons to be among the greatest at the Lord’s table. Neither she nor her sons understood what it would mean to be at the Lord’s table. It meant to suffer as Jesus would suffer. This is how one becomes great in the eyes of God. Not by human standards, but by God’s standards. Where have we heard this before? All through the Gospels.
The apostles would someday come to know that they would suffer great pain for their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. We sometimes also suffer for our faith. In many parts of the world, Christians are physically persecuted. In our own country, it seems Christians are being looked down upon and vilified for our beliefs. Since when has the Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of love or one another, become the enemy civilization? It is hard to imagine for those of us who have lived long lives and grew up in the day when Christianity was the standard, not on the outside fringe.
The question all of us must ask is this: How do we continue to show the world that the teachings of Jesus are the only way the world will be saved? That our love for everyone and the salvation of their souls is primary? Well, let’s look again, to Jesus: “Rather, whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Ransom = freedom. Many = all.
The season of Lent is the perfect time to look into our hearts to find that kernel of truth hiding among the weeds of pride. The truth that only when we serve others, can we be among the greatest in the eyes of Jesus. In the Gospel, Jesus uses the word slave. It is not “slave” in the sense we understand today, but rather the “slave of love” to another. Voluntary slavery to serve the greater good. In my 70 years of life, I am quite amazed that many people still do not understand that living by the Gospel, the Commandments, and the Beatitudes, brings about peace. Instead, today we seem intent on sowing the seeds of true slavery to the whims of the world. Please don’t fall into this trap!
If there is hope in all of this, it is that Lent, every year, calls us to examine our hearts and where we stand with Jesus. Even the smallest change in our lives will blossom. The seeds planted in our souls and cannot be eradicated. They will remain there until we commit to growing in love and service.
“You will free me from the snare they set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands, I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God. Save me, O Lod, in your kindness.”
Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.