Growing up, there used to be many festivals celebrated in our town which Christians did not participate in. The reason was that the Irish missionaries taught our people that to be a Christian, one should not participate in such celebrations because they were devilish. Looking at it closely, to be a Christian has practical religious and social dimensions. Our religious beliefs, have shape our lives in such a way that when one comes out, the person is identified by the way he behaves or comports himself. Christians live by certain standards through which they are easily identified in their surroundings.
The same was applicable to the prophets of the Old Testament, for example, Jeremiah whose experiences as a prophet of God are presented before us today. Whether real or imagined, it is a real fact that his life was exceptional in the society of his milieu. He had values, norms and standards that must have made him different from other people, to draw upon him some kind of reaction, either in favor or against. Some argue that the constant threats in Jeremiah’s life were loneliness, contempt and ridicule and it was very hard for him to endure them. He had no respite from the strong opposition rising all around him. He himself confesses that all day long, he was an object of laughter as everyone mocks him. In today’s first reading, he says that he hears the whisperings of many calling upon him terror and denunciation, even those who used to be his friends turned against him. These, according to many, could be Jeremiah’s most dramatic manifestation of his interior crisis.
These could prove that Jeremiah’s vocational inspiration and mission were not purely magical or simply experiences. He had been sent out to root up and to tear down. This prophetic call and mission was very irresistible. In the midst of his internal contradictions, he keeps faith in God’s loyalty. His unrestrained outpouring reveal his intimate relationship with the Lord. He always brought his pains and problems to the Lord. The experiences of Jeremiah are repeated in the case of all called by God with a special mission in their lives. They will inevitably experience sufferings and persecutions. Both the fate and the experiences of the Old Testament prophets were culminated in Jesus Christ and through him, continued in his disciples. That is why, in his high priestly prayer, Jesus will pray for his disciples, sent on a special mission in the world, in these words: “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth (John 17: 16-19).”
Seeing the difficulties for his disciples, sent with special mission in the world, Jesus instructs them as we hear in our gospel today: “do not let men intimidate you. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not become known.” He goes on to tell them that they should not be afraid of anyone, rather to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul. Nothing will ever happen to them without the knowledge of the Father. He will take care of them. Through the Apostles, we too have been encouraged to continue to bear witness to Jesus Christ, who in turn will acknowledge us before his heavenly Father.
We cannot be in the world and of the world at the same time. As Disciples of Christ, we must be in the world and not of the world by living out our Christian values, following Christian norms and up-holding Christian principles and standards. These will make us to be identified as Christians. In this way we will draw souls to Christ. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul calls on us to live as children of the new Man. Just as sin and death entered the world through the disobedience of one man, so through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, all abound much more in the grace of God and the gracious gift of God. For that reason, it is better to break the shackles of disobedience of the old Adam, with the gracious gifts of God, of the New Adam, Jesus Christ. May God give us the Spirit and grace to be faithful to our prophetic calling by living in imitation of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of the Apostles and the saints who have gone before us now and forever. Amen