Today we encounter a discouraged Jeremiah in our first reading. Jeremiah was a prophet with a difficult assignment. He is known as the “weeping prophet” because of his many sufferings. He was called by God to a series of assignments that he could not handle, mostly having to do with converting the people in Jerusalem away from the false god they had enthroned named Baal. He was to bring them back to the true God.
Now Jeremiah put up every excuse he could think of when he heard his assignment for the first time: he was too young, he could not speak, he had nothing to say, he was weak. And yet God was not persuaded, and so on he went to attend to his preaching, his life’s mission.
The problem was he was a failure. He was right: he had no experience, he couldn’t speak with his stutter, and he seemed to make more mistakes than one could count. The more he preached, the more things stayed the same. Where he led, no one followed. What he said, no one liked. The more he tried to get people’s attention, the more he was ignored and despised. He even walked the streets with a yoke about his neck in order to attract attention. He was a prophet who could not preach. He was put into prison, and for days he was left in a pit to die in Babylon. He spent the last part of his life in Egypt, but died having not made a single convert we know about.
And when he felt like giving up, throwing in the towel–when he decided to just forget about it all, to forget about his God and his mission and everything–it was at that moment when we hear him say those words in our reading today: “If I say I’ll mention God no more, or speak any more in his name, there is as it were a fire, shut up in my bones, and I grow weary in holding it in and I cannot.”
He couldn’t give up. His mission, his God was in his bones, stamped on his heart….and he had not choice. He couldn’t not keep going, keep trying. He couldn’t not help. He couldn’t not keep trying. Because forgetting about it all, was not an option.
St. Paul felt much the same thing. After all, he too had had many trials and problems and failures. Yet St Paul tells us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are to live lives of service, to give of ourselves, to serve God and His church and one another. Because not doing so is not an option: it is in our bones. Even, as Jesus says, even if we got the whole world, it wouldn’t be worth it if we had to turn our back on our God. Forgetting is not an option.
Perhaps we have all had moments where we feel like “forgetting about it all.” The trials are too big, the problems too large. Perhaps in our personal lives or families. We think: how can I keep going? I’m sick and tired and I’m done. My give a damn is busted. Thanks a lot God, that’s it. But then we feel those words of Jeremiah: “If I say I’ll mention God no more, or speak any more in his name, there is as it were a fire, shut up in my bones, and I grow weary in holding it in and I cannot.”
Maybe we look at the problems of the world. Take Hurricane Harvey for example. It is on all of our minds. And yet the problems with it are so big. Easy to say, forget about it. But there is something in our bones! We can’t not help. We must. And so, an opportunity. In the pews are cards to see who might be willing and desiring to take a trip to Texas after Christmas time. Perhaps we will have a youth mission trip with it, but this is open to all. Maybe you can provide meals. Let’s just see where we are. I’ve spoken with some other priests and we may do a joint trip. Friends: we can’t forget about it. We have to help. It is in our bones. More, in our hearts.
“If I say I’ll mention God no more, or speak any more in his name, there is as it were a fire, shut up in my bones, and I grow weary in holding it in and I cannot.”