September 3, 2023; 22 nd Sunday in Ordinary Time; Jeremiah 20:7-9
Jeremiah was one of God’s greatest prophets, but his relationship with God was not an easy one. This is because the message that God asked Jeremiah to preach was a message that no one wanted to hear. Jeremiah was to preach that the kingdom of Judea would be destroyed because of its sins. Jeremiah preached this message because he believed it was God’s message. But he suffered greatly because of it. His words were ridiculed and rejected. He was personally attacked and thrown into a cistern to die. In today’s first reading, Jeremiah accuses God of deceiving him by leading him to a life that no one would want to live. Jeremiah even considers being God’s prophet no more, to stop preaching God’s message. But this is something that he could do because the word of God was burning in his heart, like a fire. He had to let it out.
Sometimes, we find ourselves like Jeremiah. We discover that God has put in our hearts a fire, and even if we prefer to ignore it, we must let it out. This can happen in a marriage or in another deep relationship, when one partner realizes that something is dying and that things need to change. Calling for better communication, insisting on counseling, demanding a recommitment, can all result in ridicule and rejection. There is always the temptation to say nothing, to avoid confrontation, to go on pretending that things are fine. But when we realize that God has put a fire in our heart, we must let it out, because we know that it is the truth.
This can happen as we negotiate our place in the larger society in which we live. We know that in our society there are always initiatives that threaten life, diminish human dignity, foster racism, or harm our environment. To bring up these concerns in our families or in social settings can be uncomfortable and make others angry. So, we are tempted to just let things ride, to say nothing. But when we realize that God has put a fire in our heart, we must speak out, if we wish to be to be disciples of Jesus.
Today’s liturgy asks us to examine our own hearts. And Jeremiah reminds us that, if we find a fire that God has put there, we cannot hold it in. We must speak it, because that is the way that we take our place among God’s prophets, that is the way that we give voice to God’s word.