Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Holy Prophet Jeremiah

SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT A PROPHET is someone who simply foretells the future. That's too simple and misses the prophet's larger role. The quote below (which came to me without authorship) clues us in and deserves a second and even third reading. The paragraph begins, "The prophet is a man..." Of course women can be prophets too.
"The prophet is a man who feels fiercely, God has thrust a burden upon his soul and he is bored and stunned by man's fierce greed. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. God is raging in the prophet's words. The prophet is intent on intensifying responsibility, is impatient with excuses, contemptuous of pretense and self-pity. His tone, rarely sweet and caressing, is frequently consoling and dis-burdening; his words are often slaying even horrid - designed to shock rather than edify."

Jeremiah is called a major prophet. Maybe that means he's especially worth paying attention to. He lived a little more than 600 years before Jesus. Isaiah would be another major prophet. But while Isaiah eagerly and happily embraced God's call by answering, "Here I am, send me,' Jeremiah squirmed and claimed that he was too young and didn't have public speaking skills. But God wouldn't hear  it and replied, "Get yourself ready."

We have to let God be God. Maybe that's why so many people today distance themselves (even bitterly) from God and the hearing of anything having to do with religion: God's going to say, "Get yourself ready," and we'd rather be left alone to do our own thing.

  • On  the day of baby's birth God saying, "Get yourself ready."
  • On wedding day, "Get yourself ready."
  • When we know it's time to do something about the addiction, "Get yourself ready."
  • When there's a new person in the class, the office, the carpool, the club, "Get yourself ready."
  • When a loved one decides to tell it like it is about my behavior, "Get yourself ready."
  • When the priest delivers a challenge to the parish that has nothing to do raising money for the next building project, "Get yourself ready."
  • When  I (we) need professional help, "Get yourself ready."

It's said that Jeremiah is the first prophet to call people to an understanding of their personal stance or relationship with God. We might wonder if this caused him trouble as religious leaders might have seen this invitation as a threat to their communal control - read - they were afraid they'd lose money.

All prophets have enemies for their disquieting messages. Prophets demand change. You can't stay stupid, ignorant,  lazy or indifferent around a prophet. Prophets are always calling people away from the lies we tell ourselves.

False worship isn't just putting incense in front of a statue of an animal-God or sacred pole. "One Nation Under Guns" it's now being said. Defending the so-called military complex "come hell or high water,"  caring about the stability of a country only because it protects our own national interests, Political Party over the gospel,  entrusting my own opinions with more listening-reverence than they deserve, quick to resort to power as the answer to every problem, a greater familiarity with my stock portfolio than my bible. This is false worship. 

It's said that perhaps more than any other prophet, Jeremiah felt the depth and magnitude of the work God set for him to accomplish. It's not easy to deliver a message that's unpopular, that's going to cause me to lose customers, votes or a thumbs up. 

God said to Jeremiah, "Aren't my words like fire and a hammer struck against rock?" In other words, "I know how deeply you feel this." But do I feel the depth of God's Word? Even the priests have to ask this of themselves. Archbishop Anthony Bloom said we "shouldn't pray until we feel something." So much for rote religion. I'm thinking of priests who at Communion time look over the heads of the people to see how long the line is, while chanting in a robo-voice, "Body-a-Christ, Body-a-Christ, Body-a-Christ. 

Aren't my words like fire and a hammer against rock?

And then, Jeremiah is sometimes called the Weeping Prophet. No doubt because he is believed to be the author of the Biblical Book of Lamentations - a great weeping over the destruction of God's holy City. Is there any weeping in me as I stand before God? My sins? The horror of the world? All the unnecessary death? The constant resorting to war? The old hatreds that won't go away?

Until about 1965 the priest wore a vestment over his left arm at Mass called a maniple. The word comes from the Latin  for hands-ful. It disappeared because it was thought to have become irrelevant. In the 60's when there were so many changes taking place in the Catholic Church, instead of teaching people the meaning of things, they were just abandoned. 

A maniple was a kind of stylized handkerchief. It meant the priest ought to take a weeping heart to the foot of the cross - the hands of the heart full of suffering-tears for the world in all of its pain and foolish error. In a way we all wear a maniple.

Young Pope John Paul II wearing a maniple

May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow in order that I may joyfully reap the reward or my labors. (Priest Vesting Prayer)


  1. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet and was not willing. But he answered God's call. Are there prophets today? Everything we seem to believe is based on the ancient prophecies and the teachings of Christ from 2000 years ago. Are the modern saints prophets? Forgive me my ignorance.

  2. We say that John the Baptist was the last - at least in the prophetic line leading to Christ. Throughout the centuries there are people who speak to us very powerfully and clearly the mind of God. The martyred Archbishop, Oscar Romero of El Salvador, comes to mind. They won't be called "Prophets" in any official way, but that doesn't matter, no one owns the word. We should become very familiar with the reflection/definition of prophet at the head of the post. We'll know it (the prophetic aspect in someone) when we see and hear it. A girl wrote in to a question and answer column asking: "My boyfriend says he's a prophet. Could he be?" Immediate red flag! Prophets don't control people.