“Jeremiah said: “I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!’ All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. (Jer 20:10-13)
Do not we all feel like Jeremiah these days? Mention God and be denounced at work; defend a moral principle and be suspected by neighbors; question the full motivation of the latest cultural movement and be pummeled on social media. What is patently different in our situation from Jeremiah’s is that the enemies of God’s disciples no longer whisper. They bellow, they accuse, they threaten; they “cancel” you out and are proud of doing so!
In our time of many social movements, some peaceful and some brutal, Catholics should concern themselves with their own movement: the movement of the Holy Spirit. This is the authentic movement because it originates in God. It moved Peter to declare to those who would denounce him: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). As a catholic movement it is universal. Here is Peter again: “In truth I see that God show’s no partiality. Rather in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). Acceptance in Christ is therefore based on reverence and virtue, not on education or economic status, not on nationality or race. Acceptance, however, does still relate to creed: to the Christian “credo” or “I believe” that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God (Jn 3:16). It is God’s acceptance that we are meant to strive for, not the approval of (1 Thes 2:4) or the conformity with man (Rom 12:1-2) especially not post-modern man who lacks peace in his spirit while seeking power in his flesh.
Throughout history, man has been pressured and denounced into leaving the counsel of God. Many men and women once virtuous have been whittled down slowly but steadily into vice, first by the requirement of being tolerant, then by being open and accepting, and finally by coming to full agreement with what is evil in the sight of God. Confusion, doubt, and fear of denunciation and isolation have all weighed heavily on Christian souls, many who have altogether abandoned their justifying faith to gain justification from the prevailing culture.
On this 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, in a time that is certainly not ordinary, we place on our bulletin cover a work by the Russian realist Ilya Repin, entitled Cry of Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem (1870/Wikiart). This painting is utilized here to depict a spiritual rather than a historical reality. It represents the human soul confronting the dismantling of the divine law and the natural law. First comes the loss of beauty, truth, and goodness in the mind and heart of man, then this loss manifests itself in observable ways: the self-destruction of the soul and the annihilation of well-ordered society.
Here we see Jeremiah lamenting the loss of life as three bodies barely discernable from the wreckage lie bloody on the ground. Yet what is most telling in this image is the veil of the temple near the toppled golden pillar whose crimson folds appear as a waterfall of blood pouring out from the temple stones. This is the Church losing its lifeblood, its faith and its wisdom, by following a worldly way; a way that does not lead to joy and peace, but to frustration and destruction.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services