Ordinary Time 12, Year A
- The Lord hears the cry of the poor (Ps. 69:34)
The prophet Jeremiah surely forms part of the long line of persecuted righteous persons that begins, according to Mt. 23:34, with Abel and reaches all the way to Zechariah. From the Christian point of view, of course, the martyrdom of Jeremiah and the other prophets and wise persons of the Old Testament prophesied Jesus’ martyrdom, and Jesus the martyr as well is whom New Testament martyrs recall.
Jesus, as Christians see it then, is the summit and source of all martyrdom. Jesus makes meaningful the sufferings, insults and false accusations of those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness and because of him. He gives sufficient grace to those without strength, making his power perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Proclaims a hymn for Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Common of Martyrs:
- Christ, whose passion once was sown
- All virtue of all saints to be,
- For the white field of these they own
- We praise the seed and sower, thee.
- Thine was the first and holiest grain
- To die and quicken and increase;
- And then came these, and died again,
- That spring and harvest should not cease.
Owing, that is to say, to the overflowing of the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ, the death resulting from Adam’s transgression is not only rendered innocuous; it is made, instead, life- and fruit-bearing (cf. Jn. 12:24).
Christian spring and harvest are, needless to say, not to cease in our day and age. We who pledged in baptism to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” are expected and given ample opportunity to be fruitful, or risk being cut down and thrown into the fire (Rom. 13:14; Mt. 17:19; Lk. 13:6-8; cf. Father Robert P. Maloney, C.M., “Models of ‘Being Holy’,” ). God’s glory and discipleship, in fact, are about bearing much fruit (Jn. 15:8, 16). And we have the assurance from Jesus that our remaining in him, like branches in the vine, guarantees our being fruitful, albeit it also involves painful pruning by his word (Jn. 15:2-5).
Communion, then, with Jesus—absorption in him and his righteousness, and not in ourselves and our self-righteousness—is what really matters. We are warned, in fact, that producing fruits in keeping with repentance precludes presuming too much on supposed privileged status (Mt. 3:8-10; Lk. 3:8-9). Becoming fruitful, in the manner of Jesus, Jeremiah—hated as a defeatist and a traitor by his contemporaries—and the other martyrs, means, first of all, holding on to the true source of security and the letting go of the almost magical inviolability, usually and mistakenly attached to nation and national symbols, and the questioning of unreflected patriotism and gratuitous appeal to national security (cf. ). There is thus this admonition in Jer. 7:3-4, 14: “Put not your trust in the deceitful words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!’ .... I will do to this house named after me, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, just as I did to Shiloh.” And Jesus for his part warns: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt. 7:21).
Those who point to Jesus today continue to speak the inconvenient truth. They take issue, for example, with insatiable consumption and unfettered consumerism (cf. a blog from Barbara Green, O.P., at ). They subscribe to all persons being created equal and having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and uphold uncompromisingly the inalienable rights and the God-given dignity of every person even when there is threat of terrorism. They participate in proclaiming on the mountain, a stretch of level ground or a housetop, and in broad daylight a whole new set of blessings, altogether different from the woes that have repeatedly been mistaken for blessings (M. 5:3-11; 23; Lk. 6:17-26).
These martyrs today themselves constitute the blessed poor who reserve their fear, their wonder and awe, to God alone, and are not afraid of those who kill the body. The Lord, after all, is closed to them because they are brokenhearted; he saves them because they are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18). They sing to the Lord, for he rescues the life of the poor from the power of the wicked. They are, therefore, instrumental in the calling back today the memory and the real presence in our midst of the Martyr, whose body was given up, whose blood was shed for us and for all.