Let us pray Jeremiah’s Prayer (10:23-25):
Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
it is not for them to direct their steps.
Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—
not in your anger,
or you will reduce me to nothing.
Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the peoples who do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him completely
and destroyed his homeland. AMEN
“So who would want to be a prophet? Compared to the respectable philosopher, the prophet is a dumpster dweller. While the philosopher lives in the mansions of the mind, the prophet is homeless in the streets of everyday facts. The philosopher gives lectures on good and evil in general, while the prophet rants against this particular evil. And while the guru calmly encourages the good life in theory, the prophet threatens hellfire against this practical bad life…The prophet feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden on his soul…For the prophet, no one is just enough, honest enough, faithful enough, good enough, godly enough,” (Smith, Fr. James, Celebration Jan 2001, “Called To Be Prophet”).
Do you want to be around a prophet? How are you like a prophet? At our baptism, we are anointed as priest, prophet and king. The Hebrew word for prophet is nabi, or “the one who was called” by God. Prophets:
- challenge the lifestyle of their contemporaries.
- proclaim the covenant (that God wants a personal relationship with us).
- insist on justice for all (Zannoni, A., Scripture From Scratch Sept. 1994, “The Biblical Prophets: Challenging role Models”).
Jeremiah was born about 650 BC. Jeremiah began to prophecy in the 13th year of King Josiah’s reign, about 626 BC (only 21 years old!). He is said to have come from a priestly family of Anathoth, a village 4 miles NE of Jerusalem, (Andersen, B., Understanding the Old Testament, p. 300). He supported the reform of King Josiah which began in 629 BC. Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, fell in 612 BC, preparing the way for the new colossus, Babylon, which was soon to put an end to Judean independence. But King Josiah died, and the old idolatry returned. He opposed it with all of his being. Arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace were his lot. Nebuchadnezzar took swift and terrible vengeance, destroying Jerusalem in 587 and sending the people into exile. Jeremiah remained amidst the ruins of Jerusalem but was forced into Egyptian exile until he was murdered by his own people. They appreciated his words after his death (The New American Bible: Saint Joseph Edition, p. 892-893).
The book of Jeremiah is more like an anthology ( a collection of writings).
Chapters1-25: prophetic oracles with some biological narrative inserted.
Chapters 26-45: more biological narratives with occasional sermons
Chapters 46-51: oracles against the nations
Chapter 52: the fall of Jerusalem (from II Kings 24:18-25:30)
Theologians seem to think that Jeremiah wrote most of the writings, with editing done by his scholar Baruch and later writers (Andersen, p. 327-328).
Jeremiah’s call: “I see a branch of the watching tree.” (1:11) This is an almond tree, which the Hebrew called shaqed, or “the watcher” (shoqed means “watching”, a play on words). Its white flowers are the first to bloom in the spring and seem like hundreds of eyes covering the tree. “Well have you seen, for I am watching to fulfill my word.” (1:12)
The main theme is to indict Jerusalem for its disobedience to YHWH’s Torah and to sentence Jerusalem to the punishments that follow upon Torah disobedience. Jeremiah does this primarily using the Lord’s voice. He wants to make it very clear that this is how God feels and he is only the instrument for God’s communication. He does so using many words from nature and aspects of everyday life. Consider his audience! What spoke to you in these chapters? How do you compare these people to today and your life?
Jeremiah makes reference that even before he was born, he was meant to do this work of prophecy. Have you ever felt that kind of certainty?
Closing Reflection from Abraham Lincoln:
In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all…
It comes with bitterest agony…
Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.
You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better…
And yet this is a mistake.
You are sure to be happy again.
To know this, which is certainly true,
Will make you come less miserable now.
I have experienced enough to know what I say.