Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
2nd Responsory, Office of Readings, Friday, Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
What profundity graces the second of a two week read of Jeremiah. This 22nd week continues a review of God’s love for the chosen people as well as affirms the church as the people of God –the followers and body of God’s self in Christ Jesus. Also continued this week, the Jeremiah / Jesus parallels focus a context for each of the second readings. Perhaps a quote from Leo the Great from this week’s Saturday second reading summarizes this entire week:
“The earth that is promised to the meek and which will be given to the gentle for their possession is none other than the bodies of the saints. Through the merit of their humility their bodies will be transformed by a joyous resurrection and clothed in the glory of immortality.”
In this quote the week’s Jeremiah / Jesus parallel(s), the humility theme, the physical suffering, the restoration and renewal of the physical (place and body), each and all, depict incarnation of the covenant’s realization –in the case of the saints, its triumph!
Sunday. Augustine exhorts, “Let us then follow Christ’s paths which he has revealed to us, above all the path of humility, which he himself has become for us.” One can’t help but hear the words from Jeremiah, “…a trusting lamb led to the slaughter…” and apply them to Jesus. The clearly revealed path is Jesus, resurrected; and so for believers, the Church as the body of Christ.
Monday. From the Imitation of Christ we are reminded how to respond to God’s word: “listened to in silence and received with all humility and great affection.” This response is completely divergent from the reaction of Jeremiah’s and Jesus’ contemporaries to their announcements of the word of God. For their faithfulness, they are scourged –beaten back and down, punished for ‘causing’ great trouble.
Tuesday. Again from the Imitation of Christ we hear, “those who do all of the talking amount to nothing; they fail with their din of words, but the truth of the Lord endures for ever.” Here in the emphasis, Jesus resurrected, the body of Christ and thus the community of saints (faithful humility) who comprise Church. These people often find themselves like Jeremiah and Jesus; “all the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me…”
Wednesday. Yet, Origen confirms our approach this week: “…the temple and the body of Jesus can be seen in a single perspective as a type of the Church.” His words follow the Jeremiah reading describing how the crowd reacts to Jeremiah, “You must be put to death!” They make this capital demand for his saying the city would be destroyed –lost like at Shiloh, the first city of the ark (the place and sign, of God’s presence, favor and grace with Israel), repeating the historical and intolerable humiliation of Israel’s first defeat. Jeremiah’s words may as well speak for Jesus as the Lamb of God, with, “if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves.” They bring humiliation of themselves relative to Jeremiah even as these words for Christians take on not only the saving ritual gesture of Passover but its ultimate triumphal realization! The Church, the ones who follow Jesus’ path of humility, which is humiliation only in the eyes of those who will not see, is the City of God, the people washed in his innocent blood who witness God’s presence, favor and grace in the world –from the beginning, now and will forever!
Thursday. Leo the Great makes clear the distinction between poverty and humility: “… the kingdom of heaven is to be given to those distinguished by their humility of soul rather than by their lack of worldly goods.” The kingdom of God is what Jeremiah means we he prophesizes the word of God: “…plans to give you a future full of hope… I will listen to you… you will find me… you will find me with you … and I will change your lot.” These words promise a new relationship with the Lord, they extrapolate Isaiah’s, Emmanuel, as well as provide Christians with an entrée to God’s presence most especially in what seems to be absence –Jeremiah’s and Jesus (and other saints too) seeming abandonment. The blessed poor in spirit are the sharers of the new covenant.
Friday. Leo the Great speaks of the church as those restored to health –the once lame leap for joy now! Through, with and in the way of humility (faith), the once-crippled-by-hubris (as if the law could be fully and totally ‘kept’ –a reckoning like Paul’s, a way of life leading to frustrated, lonely exhaustion) are renewed, refreshed, in a word (hear the fullest connotation of the word rather than focus on its modern narrow sexualized sense), virgin, again. Here, covenant as humble faith, is readiness and openness to life and living and loving which Jeremiah proclaims, “O virgin Israel!” This is ultimate new-ness!
Saturday. Leo the Great explains this newness by defining what mourning and meekness really mean in God’s reign, “…he who does wrong is more to be lamented than he who suffers it…” (and cf. the quote at the beginning of this piece). The ‘new’ in new covenant means human intelligence and will power are changed –not God’s relationship with us. With humility we receive a new heart1 –until Jesus we existed without heart– in sin, employing our intelligence and will power to deadly separateness (the obscure Jeremiah “seed” lines refer to ‘farmers’ and ‘ranchers’ –recall Cane and Abel and the first sin of fratricide –both tasks at the service of feeding humans yet perpetually at odds with each other at the same time over what is essential to each). Too, Jeremiah’s reference (“unripe grapes… teeth set on edge”) to sons incurring the consequences of their fathers’ actions is a lifting up of personal responsibility, while for Christians these words applied to Jesus’ demise fulfills and simultaneously reverses the passage. The Father’s actions raise Jesus and all humanity to heavenly Eucharistic consequences!
Nothing is as it seems or more profoundly perhaps, everything is as it seems when human intelligence and will power embrace humility as the path to communion. This blessed covenant makes all new and restores truth; meaning; presence, favor and grace, so each and every human heart will know –the practical recognition of God in every action and situation, a life attitude2– God, all in all!
How does humility inform your day to day response to God’s call to new life
–do you find the seemingly contrary reconciled through, with and in forgiveness and/or appreciation?
FACTOID The longest OT quote in the NT is Heb 8:8-12. It reinterprets, the Jeremiah 31:31-34 which is the only time “new covenant” is used in the OT. Also, the Jeremiah quote is reinterpreted in the NT at Luke 22:20 and 1 Cor 11:25.3
1 cf. H.W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Ole Testament, Phl, 1974, 46 ff.
2 Guy P. Couturier, C.S.C, Jeremiah, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary; pp. 290, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990).
3 Couturier, ibid; p. 289.