Jeremiah (20:10-13) has become very unpopular because of his prophecy. The people throw him into a pit at one point. As Christians, looked at the life of Jesus and his impending persecution before the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities, they saw parallels in Jeremiah. Undaunted, Jeremiah knew that God was with him. He continued to speak truth to power. God will be his mighty champion. As the Psalmist says, “in my distress, I called upon God and God heard my voice.”
Jeremiah ends by saying that God “has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” The wicked are the unjust, the dominators, the exploiters of the poor. They maintain the sociopolitical structures which keep the just, the poor, in bondage. Let us recall the modern Jeremiah’s who, like Jesus, speak truth to power-Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Stang, Franz Jagerstetter, Thomas Merton, Phillip and Daniel Berrigan, Liz McAllister, Joan Chittister, the Maryknoll Women martyrs in El Salvador, the Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador, Dennis Kucinich, John Dear, Jeremiah Wright, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Roy Bourgeois, Mother Teresa, Father Jean-Juste, Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal, Thomas Gumbleton, Father Bob Cushing, and Father Bob Mattingly. These last two priests were removed from ministry in a parish because one went to Japan on the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and the latter preached to a comfortable suburban parish and pleaded for the poor of Haiti. You may also know many unheralded prophets-think about it.
The “Jews” (Jn 10:31-42) are so angry that they want to stone Jesus. John does not stop to tell us how frightened Jesus must have been when they stood before him with stones in their hands and murder in their eyes. In John, according to Raymond Brown, Jesus is sovereign. He is in control and knows what is going on. In Mark, he is so terrorized by what lies ahead that he falls flat on his face in the Garden of Gethsemani. He is sweating so profusely that it is like he is bleeding. Speaking truth to power is not for the feint hearted. Prophets live in angst.
Jesus again tries to convince them that the truth he speaks comes from God. Blasphemer! For this “crime” the “Jews” could stone people to death. Jesus keeps saying, “Look at my works.” They refuse. They refuse to listen to God because they do not like what Jesus is saying to them. Their “God” resides in purity and debt codes and religious observances, customs and practices. If they say their prayers, follow all the codes and customs, and go to the Temple and/or synagogue regularly, “God” will bless them with prosperity. God is not about prosperity for the unjust. God’s mercy (chesed) extends to all people. God’s chesed favors the widows, the orphans, the aliens-those who have no one else. God is merciful and just. Jesus came to restore justice-right order among all people and with God. Accountability for the Christian comes from Matthew 25. Jesus tells us that we will be judged not on the size of our bank accounts or portfolios (rather dismal indicators these days!) but rather by how they have treated “the least among us.”