Many of us worry about what other people think of us. We want to be liked. We want to be accepted and part of the group. I don’t think anyone likes to be an outsider. Thus we might find ourselves self-censoring what we say to others so as not to offend or alienate them. If this is true of many of us, then I think it is not a good idea to volunteer to be God’s prophet. God often asks the prophet to share things with people that they don’t want to hear.
We see this clearly in the reading from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is one of my favourite prophets from the Old Testament. As one commentator pointed out, “He is called a prophet of doom. He lived at the most tragic period of Israel’s history during which Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the people were carried off into exile. He answered God’s call to be a prophet but he did this most reluctantly.” He tried to escape his mission as prophet by pretending to God that he was a stutterer, but God told him to quit pretending and get on with the job.
People didn’t want to hear God’s message of repentance and the destruction that would follow if they didn’t respond to the call for repentance. Jeremiah told the people what God wanted them to do. The message was not palatable and so the king was petitioned to have Jeremiah put to death because “he is unquestionably disheartening the remaining solders in the city and all the people too, by talking like this. The fellow does not have the welfare of this people at heart so much as its ruin.” He was seized, dropped into a cistern and left to die. “There was no water in the well, only mud, into which Jeremiah sank.” If he had only told people what they wanted to hear then he would have been fine and everyone’s best friend.
He was rescued by an Ethiopian eunuch. Jeremiah was faithful to God as a prophet, speaking to his people the words that God wanted them to hear. Like Jeremiah, am I faithful to the Lord? Do I live by his word? Am I prepared to follow his way? If we take the gospel message seriously and try to live it boldly, we may be shunned, we may find ourselves on the outside and those we consider friends or family might avoid us.
We are challenged to live and speak the truth. This can be costly “The world around us does not share many of our basic values: the meaning of human existence, the worth of human life, the purpose of human sexuality, the dignity of the poor, our need for the church and the sacraments. Speaking up on such matters, even speaking carefully and gently can quickly make us unpopular.”
Lord help me to love the truth and give me the courage to speak the truth and live the truth.