“Let us...persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
In the First Reading the prophet Jeremiah has been thrown into a cistern for preaching the word of God. Judah was under siege from the Babylonian Empire. The armies of Babylon broke off the siege of Jerusalem to do battle with the armies of Egypt when the Pharaoh of Egypt launched his own invasion of Judah. The people of God were caught in the middle of a mighty struggle between two powerful and worldly empires.
It was during this break in the fighting that King Zedekiah of Judah asked the prophet Jeremiah to intervene with the Lord. Jeremiah responded that the Baby- lonians (called “the Chaldeans” ) would return and burn Jerusalem to the ground.
When Jeremiah visited his hometown of Anathoth, he was accused of consorting with the enemy, since the town was now behind enemy lines. Jeremiah was seized, beaten, and imprisoned. He was interrogated by King Zedekiah but re- fused to back down from his prophecy.
This is when he was thrown into a cistern, where our first reading begins. There was a plot to have Jeremiah executed. He was saved from death by Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian court official. Jeremiah was interrogated again by Zede- kiah, but he restated that the king should surrender to the Babylonians; if he did, he would be treated better, and Jerusalem and the people would be spared.
Jeremiah’s adherence to God’s word brought upon him rejection and ill treatment. But his faith was in the Lord, and the Lord heard his prayer and came to his aid. As we prayed in the Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, come to my aid!”
Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel tells us that for those who take the Gospel seri- ously, misunderstanding and division must likewise be expected. He warns that even family members will be against each other, because some follow the paths of the world, and some try to follow the ways of God.
This struggle is played out on a larger scale in our national, political, and social scenes. People of faith must always bear witness to Christ by loving God, neighbor, and enemy, by working for the cause of righteousness and truth, and by living virtuously.
After all, some who abandon God, and his Church say that it was the poor exam- ple of so-called “believers” that drove them away. Nevertheless, persecution, in many forms, will always come up against the People of God.
As followers of Christ we look UP first and foremost! Call upon the Lord and you will know what you ought to do.
In the meantime, as our second reading tells us, we must, like Christ, never grow despondent or abandon the struggle to proclaim and live the truth. (cf. hebrews 12:1-4)
God bless you all, Father Robert Letona