In spite of what you may have heard from Three Dog Night, Jeremiah was not a bullfrog. Jeremiah was a prophet who lived around 650 BC and this isn’t one of his best days. He’s ticked off at the Lord and he tells Him so. “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” Strong words, especially when they’re directed at the Almighty. But things aren’t going well for him.
He’s accepted the position of prophet, but when he speaks, people make fun of him. Believe me, that’s no fun. Jeremiah is fed up and says he’ll never speak of the Lord again. But “it becomes like a fire burning in (his) heart….(He) grows weary holding it in. (He) cannot endure it. So he continues to speak and he’s persecuted, sent into exile in Egypt, and eventually killed by his own countrymen.
700 years later, we find Paul writing a letter to the Romans. He’s giving them a warning. “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” He tells them that if they do conform to the age they won’t be able to discern the will of God. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? The world of the Romans in the years after Jesus death and resurrection isn’t really Christian-friendly. Paul’s telling them that they must be in the world, but not of the world. The situation that you and I face today as Catholic Christians isn’t all that different from Paul’s world over 2,000 years ago.
We Christians have always been kind of a counter-cultural bunch. Living the words of Christ has never been easy, which is exactly as He told us it would be.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” There’s really nothing ambiguous about that. It’s all right there. There are no loopholes, no exceptions. So why doesn’t everyone do what He says. Remember, in John’s Gospel Jesus tells us that we’re His friends if we do what He tells us.
Here’s what we know:
- Jesus is the Son of God.
- He gave us some very simple rules to live by; basically love one another, keep the 10 Commandments, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, take up our cross and follow Him.
- If we do what He says, we’ll go to heaven and, inversely, if we don’t do what He says, we’ll go to hell.
- He created a Church and gave the Apostles and their successors the power to speak for Him. Remember, “whoever hears you hears me”. He put Peter and his successors in charge of His Church and promised that “the gates of hell” wouldn’t prevail against it.
That’s it! That’s all we really need to know. Frankly I don’t understand why so many people don’t get it. Sometimes I feel like Jeremiah. Preaching the Gospel isn’t always popular. Some people just don’t want to face facts. But I can’t not do this! Like the man said, “I grow weary holding it in.” I hope you feel the same way. As we leave here today, let’s remember what Jeremiah, Saint Paul, and Jesus are saying to us.
Don’t hold in the fire. Let it out. Share the good news in spite of the personal consequences. There are a lot of people who don’t want to hear about Jesus, and they sure don’t want to hear that they might be going to hell. They want to maintain this fantasy that they can do whatever they want and there won’t be any consequences. But are we doing them a favor by not correcting them? If you saw someone about to step off the edge of a cliff, wouldn’t you yell “stop”?
Don’t conform yourself to this age. There are powerful forces surrounding us every day that want to push us down the wrong path. Don’t let them win. Like they used to say in the ‘60s, “keep the faith, baby”. Truth doesn’t change. What was true 2,000 years ago is true today.
And, finally, think as God thinks, not as humans think. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. He will come back. There will be a judgment. He will repay each of us according to our conduct. That’s a promise from the Son of God Himself.