22nd Sunday in ordinary Time-September 3, 2023

The most common form of fireworks in my native Colombia is small amounts of gunpowder folded in paper that are placed in a small drum with a fuse. This small drum is attached to the end of a five-foot-long lightweight cane. Holding the cane vertically, a lit match is used to ignite the fuse making the cane ascend and the gunpowder explode high in the sky. As a child I was afraid of the cane falling to the ground.

The paper rolls with gunpowder do not always explode and they can be found on the ground. In my childhood years, unsupervised children in my town would play with the unexploded gunpowder. One thing that the kids liked to do was to spread the powder on the ground in a line and light it to make sparks and smoke.

I was nine when I made a line of gunpowder from an unexploded firework and burned my fingers a little. That day I could relate to the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading. Jeremiah explained that he experienced the Word of God like a fire burning in his heart, imprisoned in his bones, that he grew weary of holding in. For me, the worst thing about my gunpowder accident was that I was scheduled to be an altar server at a funeral Mass a few hours later.

The burning sensation was uncomfortable to say the least. As I served the long hour and a half funeral Mass, I was thankful to be close to the water container used to wash the priest’s hands. I subtly used the water to moisten my burnt fingers.

Today’s first reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah gives us a glimpse of how intense and challenging being a prophet was. Jeremiah heard the Word of God directly from God himself. Jeremiah’s words carried the fiery passion emplaced by God. Words can have immense power over people.

The people that Jeremiah delivered his message to were occupied with sin. The words from God that Jeremiah was charged to deliver were intended to provoke the Israelites to change their pattern of sin and turn them to God. Instead, people mocked Jeremiah and treated him badly. Understandably, Jeremiah contemplated not sharing the Word of God. However, he could not do it because to restrain the Word of God within him would make Jeremiah suffer even more.

Jeremiah’s situation foreshadowed the Lord’s situation. There is a big difference between the two realities: Jeremiah’s was only an image of the Lord’s reality. The Lord was not simply a human being who heard the Word from God. He is the Word of God made flesh! The love between the Lord and the Heavenly Father is like no other: it is love itself, it is total surrender to the other.

Once the Lord started to preach at age 30, his quiet and peaceful former life from Nazareth was gone. His preaching on the arrival of salvation clearly denounced the sin that the world was living in. Today’s gospel reading marks the moment when the Lord announces the inconceivable news of his mission and the demanding conditions for those who would follow him. There was one thing from Jeremiah’s experience that did not foreshadow the Lord’s. Unlike Jeremiah, the Lord never contemplated not sharing the Word of God.

The prophet Jeremiah’s situation also foreshadowed the Church situation. The Word of God has been given to the Church. Our message attacks the power of evil and sin. The world mocks the Church because of our beliefs and way of life. Like Jeremiah, the Church can be tempted to stop delivering the Good News to a society embroiled in sin. Saint Paul warns the Church and us in his letter to the Romans, “Do not conform yourselves to this age”.

Let us humbly ask the Lord to grant us his grace to listen to his Word and to share it with others despite difficult circumstances.