Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, Over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. If I walk out into the field, look! those slain by the sword; If I enter the city, look! those consumed by hunger. Even the prophet and the priest forage in a land they know not.
Have you cast Judah off completely? Is Zion loathsome to you? Why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. We recognize, O LORD, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you. For your name’s sake spurn us not, disgrace not the throne of your glory; remember your covenant with us, and break it not. Among the nations’ idols is there any that gives rain? Or can the mere heavens send showers? Is it not you alone, O LORD, our God, to whom we look? You alone have done all these things. (Jeremiah 14:17-22)
When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Luke 12:54-56)
But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
It’s always easier to hear a message of hope than a message of woe. That’s why the people of Jerusalem found it hard to accept many of Jeremiah’s prophecies. He warned them that unless they turned back to God, their land would suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, everything Jeremiah said came to pass: drought, famine, an invading army, and finally exile. What can possibly inspire us about this tragic tale?
In Luke 12:54-56, Jesus challenged the men of his time to “interpret the present time.” I believe that Jesus is also challenging each one of us today to interpret the present times. If we look around, we can see at least as many problems today as existed in Jeremiah’s time. In fact, if we think about it long enough, we may also be moved to tears as Jeremiah was. What of all the pain caused by abortion, sexual promiscuity, sexual abuse, drug addiction, divorce, and domestic violence? What of the poor who live in unimaginable squalor? As God’s people, we must surely empathize with all of the sadness, loss, and suffering.
But our response doesn’t have to end there. In fact, it would be unchristian to let it stay there. Many critics of religion point to suffering as a reason not to believe in God, but we can say exactly the opposite. Suffering is caused by man’s sin. God’s will is not to cause suffering but to stop it. That’s why he sent his Son! Jesus came to free us from sin and to give us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). He came to bring heaven down to earth and he now calls all of us to build that kingdom here and now.
We shouldn’t just sit around and watch things get worse. We are all called to share in Jesus’ office of priest, prophet, and king. Sometimes we’re called to be like priests and minister his healing and his salvation to those who are hurting and alone. At other times we can act as prophets, speaking the word of the Lord to those who have lost hope or don’t know if they can trust in God. And we can exercise kingly gifts: providing food, shelter, and justice for the marginalized, the, poor, and the neglected.
Yes, our eyes should “stream with tears.” But at the same time our hands and feet should be just as busy, bringing hope and healing to all God’s people.
“Lord, give me wisdom to discern rightly the signs of the times. Give me courage to stand up for what is right. Give me compassion for the wounded people you have placed in my path. Give me the strength to reach out to them and to help them as best I can. And, finally, give me faith to trust in you in all things.”
(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to use this daily meditation from the July issue of their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. The article begins with these words: “It’s always easier to hear a message of hope than a message of woe. That’s why the people of Jerusalem found it hard to accept many of Jeremiah’s prophecies. He warned them that unless they turned back to God, their land would suffer the consequences.” Jeremiah was persecuted for speaking the truth to his people. In what way does fear of persecution, or of what people will think of you, keep you from speaking out against the evils and injustices of our times?
2. How do you respond when someone says the following: “Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?” What is the article’s response to this challenging question?
3. 1 Peter 2:9 proclaims that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own,” The article says that we are “all called to share in Jesus’ office of priest, prophet, and king.” If this is who we are and this is our call, how would you rate your own response to this call?
4. The article ends with these words: “Yes, our eyes should ‘stream with tears.’ But at the same time our hands and feet should be just as busy, bringing hope and healing to all God’s people.” What additional steps can you take individually, or with other men, to bring hope and healing to others?
5. If you are in a men’s group, end your meeting by praying for one another. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.