03Aug 03 August. Friday, Week 17

1st Reading: Jeremiah (26:1-9 )

Jerusalem will be ruined like Shiloh, Israel’s national shrine

At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the Lord: Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings.

You shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently – though you have not heeded – then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finshed speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

Responsorial (Ps 69)

R./: Lord, in your great love, answer me

More numerous than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause.
Too many for my strength
are they who attack me with lies.
Must I restore what I did not steal? (R./)

It is for your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults against you fall upon me. (R./)

But I pray to you, O Lord,
may I see your favour, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your help that never fails. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (13:54-58)

Nazareth rejects Jesus, and in consequence he worked few miracles there

Jesus came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.


Liturgy linked to life

What bothered the prophets most was the dissonance between ritual and secular life. Jeremiah’s loud call for justice can be read in an enlarged version in chapter 7, where common social injustices are said to contaminate the liturgy. For this unwelcome warning the priestly managers of the temple turned sharply against the prophet, demanding his execution. But Jeremiah was not asking that ritual be abandoned, only that the worshipers should also respect justice and dignity in everyday life, and that the priestly service also encourage the worshipers to care for the poor.

Jesus had a similar message. He began his ministry at Nazareth by saying (quoting from Isaiah) that God “has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight for the blind and release for prisoners.” This was the spirit of the Year of Jubilee, a time of new beginnings prescribed in Leviticus. Yet Jesus encountered stiff resistance arising from envy in his home town, and because they refused to believe in a generous, merciful God, he could work very few miracles there.

We can reflect on our own approach to liturgy and prayer. Does it touch and influence my daily life, my home and our contemporary world? Can I accept challenge and change, and a simpler lifestyle, for the sake of the poor and the helpless? Do I believe in, and am I pleased with, our Lord’s concern for others? If not, then perhaps he can do no miracle in my heart either – the miracle of life and grace that he wishes to perform for me.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    On the day of my ordination, as I climbed on the bus to go home, the Lancashire bus driver said to me, ‘Well, Brian, what is it like to be a father and not married!’ Typical Lancashire humour, warm and affectionate and yet making a statement.

    Over in Ireland, a cousin of mine, a famous Mayo footballer, had a father who preferred farming to football. The locals used to enjoy trying to tease him whenever Mayo played and the relations went to the game but the dad stayed behind. Are you going to the game, Hugh, they would say. Hugh was ready for them. No, he replied, but I sent representatives!

    Local life is full of these humours that help us get along, and getting along is important, but local life can also be resistant to change. Groups become too cosy with themselves and will not entertain fresh ideas from outside. They resist whatever might challenge their settled ways. Right and wrong may take second place to cosy comfort. This is true of all kinds of groups and the Church is no exception.

    Today Pope Francis has spoken and made great statement about the mistaken justice of capital punishment. Many people will resist what he has to say and may gather round to confront him. They will take offence as they did at Jesus in Nazareth. But the thoroughgoing belief in human dignity despite all that would destroy it is a gospel word for us today.

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