Saturday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time
(Jeremiah 26: 11-16, 24, Matthew 14: 1-12)
“It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and city all that you have heard” (Jer. 26:12). The prophet does not speak on his own authority. This is confirmed in a comment made by the prophet Amos. “I was not a prophet, and I was never trained as one. I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees. It was the Lord who took me from following the flock and sent me to preach to his people Israel” (Am. 7:14-15). God not only called the prophet, but he also put a huge burden on him, the need to speak a message that would bring salvation to the people. God allowed the prophet to see what he saw. God opened his heart to the prophet and allowed him to feel the agony of suffering humanity in all its horror. The prophetic utterance is the voice that God lends to the silent agony of the poor. God reveals his compassionate love through the empathic words of the prophet.
God’s compassionate love for the poor and needy was, and remains, a challenge to the rich. The word of the Lord is rooted in compassion, not compromise. The prophet speaks of justice and mercy. Living among the people, the prophet’s heart was moved to compassion. The misery of the people around him would not allow him to keep silent. The prophet was moved to compassion because he lived close to the heart of God. Having had a first-hand experience of the loving compassion of God, the prophet was commissioned to call his hearers to deal compassionately with the poor and marginalized. Each of us is called to be a light for those who wander in darkness. Each of us is called to be a sign of hope for those who are trapped in despair. Like Christ, each of us must be willing to drink the bitter cup of suffering so that others may drink the cup of salvation.
The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the urgent demand placed on him by his calling. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so, hear the word I speak and give them warning from me” (Ezek. 33:7). Jeremiah gave a rather graphic description of what happened when he tried to walk away from the call. “But if I say I will never mention his word or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It is like a fire shut up in my bones. I am utterly worn out trying to hold it in. I cannot keep silent” (Jer. 20:9). The apostle to the gentiles understood the source of this urgency. “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). The prophet’s words are rooted in the heart of God. God so loved the world that he created us with a capacity to know and love him. He planted in our heart’s desire to seek the truth and gave us a mission to share it with others. The Master of the Universe has called each of us by name. He wrote His Word on the tablets of our hearts. He who has spoken heart-to-heart with us has called us to speak heart-to-heart with one another. This heart-to-heart conversation will lead us to do the truth in love. As we allow God’s word to echo in our hearts, we will become instruments to help others to hear the gentle voice and open their eyes to recognize God’s loving presence in their lives.