...in some way, in each of these situations, we have been asked to be faithful. Not successful. Just faithful.
Take a walk with me on paths trod by Jeremiah and Matthew.
Jeremiah was having a tough time in his day. Oh boy, was he having a tough time! His anger and frustration come spewing forth: YOU DUPED ME, GOD! Everyone mocks me! The message you gave me, God, is just too hard! People won’t listen. And they shun me. Or worse. Your word has brought me derision and reproach.
Of course: it’s not that God has abandoned Jeremiah. Rather, God has given him a mission that Jeremiah does not know how to carry out. He wants to resign: “I will speak in His name no more.” God has asked too much! For Jeremiah, God’s message “becomes like fire burning in my heart; I grow weary holding it in; I cannot endure it.”
Who needs this job—the lot of a prophet? Who wants it? Yet it comes, to each of us at least in small measure, by our baptism. I say “in small measure” because few of us would claim that we are called to the ministry of prophet. Really though — this work is not a part-time job, especially not for those who made profession to the Order of Preachers. Prophets and preachers cannot be silent.
Each of us has experienced a difficult ministry, or relationship, or communal living situation, or profound dissonance with country, church or workplace policies. And in some way, in each of these situations, we have been asked to be faithful. Not successful. Just faithful. This saying comes from St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Asked how she endured in the endless task of serving the dying on the streets of Calcutta, she replied that she was called only to be faithful to her service. Success was someone else’s judgment. It did not impact her service.
It’s impossible NOT to think of the trio of pandemics affecting our lives these days: racism, climate crisis, Covid-19. Our baptism calls us to be faithful even in the face of these immense challenges. And I suggest in the context of Jeremiah’s story our faithfulness comes in our NOT falling silent. We too must let that fire burning in our heart move us to action in word and deed.
Now for Peter. In one encounter with Jesus, Peter got “the keys to the kingdom”! But soon after, in a heated exchange with Jesus, he clearly shows he does not understand what needs unlocking—our hearts, our courage, our resolve. The price of faithfulness is not small. It is a denial of self, a denial of status and a denial of power. It is speaking a prophetic word. It is taking up the cross, daily. Talk about a mission we don’t want! God asks this of US.
We may not always like the message of Jesus. We may seek to challenge him, as Peter did, and hear the harsh words: “Get behind me, Satan.” Talk about feeling duped! Yet we need to hear the starkness of the message. Christianity is not for the faint of heart. It does not call us to sit comfortably on our clouds of faith, even our clouds of faith, hope and love, without tumbling into the mess below and doing what needs to be done and being who God needs us to be. Faithful. Not necessarily successful.
I am less than satisfied that I know what I am to do, who I am to be. But I will show up. I grow weary holding it in.
I must not be silent. WE must not be silent.
For sustenance we turn to the beautiful words of Psalm 63. We are thirsting for God. God’s right hand does uphold us. We need only take it, and walk where it takes us, preaching the Word.
“Preach the Word, whether convenient or inconvenient, in season or out,” as our brother David Lincoln reminded us when our new Associates made their commitments.
Our sister Catherine of Siena implores us “Speak the Truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.”
And with racism as virulent and violent as ever, we take inspiration from our brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.
“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”
Sisters and brothers: We have not been DUPED. We have been CALLED and SENT. Let the people say: AMEN.