March 20, 2019
Today’s readings find both the prophet Jeremiah and Jesus facing persecution at the hands of enemies. Having served God’s will, both have offended powerful men who are threatened by their messages.
Jeremiah’s message was a call to the people of Judah to turn away from pagan worship and human sacrifice which violated the covenant between God and His people. This message is uncomfortable and caused those who believed in or profited from pagan temples and tributes to act against Jeremiah in much the same way that the Pharisees would move against Jesus six hundred years later:
And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue;
let us carefully note his every word.”
Jesus was also targeted for persecution and death, but for an even more radical and threatening message: that God’s love and mercy is available not just to faithful Jews, but to all people. In his ministry, Jesus associated with and glorified the lowly, the outcasts, the lepers, the unclean, women, and gentiles. This was deeply unsettling to those who held positions of esteem and authority in Jewish society: Pharisees, Sadducees and government officials who, like Herod, had aligned themselves with Roman rulers.
Jesus even faced this concern among the Apostles who became indignant at the idea that two unnamed disciples could be honored to share in Jesus’ suffering and salvation. Jesus responded with this correction:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
This call to humble service is at the heart of Jesus ministry and our Lenten preparation. It will arise again on Holy Thursday in the washing of the feet.
I hear it as an invitation to reflect on how I can serve without recognition or reward. We are blessed at St. Anthony’s to have many such opportunities. Two that leap to my mind are the McAnthony Window and the delivery of food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a call to seek ways to serve through volunteer efforts and in small ways every day, to be grateful for the blessings and grace that service brings, and to know that I have pleased God and need no other recognition.
St. Anthony Parishioner