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Catholic Diocese of Umuahia


ARE YOU REALLY DOING YOUR JOB? A reflection for 20th Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year C.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Mon, 19 Aug 2019

Readings: Jer 38:4-6,8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53.

Today's readings are curious as they are sober. Judged at first sight, the incarceration of Jeremiah in the first reading looks as if it was a private matter. But it was not a private matter once we put the theocratic identity of Israel's nation into its proper perspective: They pledged to live differently as God's own people. They promised to be God’s sign to the other nations and kingdoms. But they soon forget and went their separate ways. It was Jeremiah’s call to remind them. They got angry with him!

If the last twelve years between the first siege on northern Israel and its eventual destruction in 587 BC were difficult; the several months of blockade on Judah’s capital (Jerusalem) by the Babylonian army became unbearable for king Zedekiah, which explained why, he sought the counsel of Jeremiah. Not known to hide his disgust at the moral laxity in the land at his time; and not given to flowery language to please kings, prophet Jeremiah was straight up with Zedekiah: He could not preach or promise a peace which God had not promised Israel  in those circumstances. According to him, Jerusalem will surely fall to the invading army (Jer 38:3)!

But as the political advisers reviewed and related their side of the story, they only saw that Jeremiah was disregarding their 'important need' of always praising the king and buoying up the people. Call it today’s diplomacy of not 'upsetting things’. The king's advisers, therefore, saw treason in this “fellow who does not have the welfare of the people at heart”; for his preaching was ‘out of touch’ and hurting’ (Jer 38:4).

Comparing Jeremiah’s episode with today’s Gospel presents a type. Christ says he had not come to bring peace but fire and division. So, if you’re for ‘political correctness, the question is: Would Jeremiah have been thrown to the mud-pit, if he had said what the authorities wanted to hear? More importantly, would the prophet have spoken for God or truth, if he had given himself to the sugar-coating business and double-talk of many political advisers of his time?

What do you think is the root and branch of the impunity of some leaders of our time today, which has left the people far more confused, misguided, powerless and divided on virtually all moral or religious issues? Who is really prepared to speak truth to our governors and presidents locked up in their ivory towers of comfort? In a state where workers are owed thirteen months salaries, who remind the governor of his pay which comes in full measures - and as at when due?

In understanding Jeremiah’s and Jesus' prophetic manner of teaching, shall we dispute that we all need the ‘fire’ to be brought to our Nigerian society today? As Christians, would it not serve the most useful purposes for us today if, as St Paul puts it, ‘we do not loose sight of Jesus who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection (Heb 12: 2-3)’? In all states, East and South of Nigeria for example, no one rules us here who is not a fellow believer in Christ. And truly, Jesus wished that the fire of truth, faith and conscience in us, were blazing already. Paul also affirms Christ to us as our greatest example for standing firm against wickedness.

Jesus is aware of the judgement and the division which faith may imply between the righteous and the unrighteous. Still Jesus allows the purifying fire of faith to challenge even the relationships as dear and fundamental as marriage, family and the household. So, let the difficult questions be once again posed beginning from our dearest corners. Let probity of life be demanded, not only from others or about others but from ourselves and our own households, intimacies and priced relatives.

Let it be understood that Jesus did not come to bring a cheap peace. The kindly of useless peace not founded on truth or equity is of no use to our people. ‘Peace’ because those connected with the powers that be, do the same crimes but escape the punishments, this is no peace but the situation in our country today. As clarified in Jn 14:27, the peace of Christ is the peace of soul which comes to you because your hands are clean. The fire in our consciences which result in the person not keeping quiet at the face of double standards, corruption or injustice, is the same fire of truth burning in the conviction of the saints.

This leads one to wonder for example, at the leadership of God’s own state: when everyone sings and dances for you; and the billboards around government house beam with your praise - while all around us are sheer signs of pathetic and clueless leadership: are you truly doing your job? What do your ‘advisers’ truly advise you about?


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