I have always been impressed with the response of those who volunteered to serve our country. As a young boy, I often tried to discuss the war experiences of my uncle David who served in the pacific during the Second World War. Like so many veterans of his era he never truly answered any questions about the reality of war. It was not until I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan” that I began to understand why so many are reluctant to talk about their war experiences. The opening scenes of that movie depicting the initial landing on the beaches of Normandy are not only graphically realistic but they are emotionally horrific.
That movie was not entertaining but it did evoke emotions within those who watched it. It also left you with an uncomfortable feeling about the futility of war, the loss of life and the things soldiers must do in the line of duty during war. The truth about war is only one of many subjects we would rather have the sugar coated because we do not want to know the reality of confronting the evil which lies at the heart of why nations have conflict with one another.
I find our spiritual journey is another aspect of our lives where we would rather hear about the love of God rather than hear how we sin and fall short of what God expects of us. The truth is hard to take for it forces us to look at our own hearts and how far we fail to live up to God’s expectations for us. The readings of today show us how we would rather not hear about certain spiritual realities but would rather have a feel good religion. Jeremiah’s message was one the people did not want to hear so they threw him in a cistern. Let’s shut up the messenger so we can continue to live without hearing how we need to change our lives.
We hide from the challenge because we somehow believe that all will be well with our relationship with God if we continue our spiritual journey as it is now. We want to feel good about our efforts to be religious. At the same time we know in our hearts more is required of us.
Silencing the message God is sending to us does not change what God desires us to hear. Our failing to respond to the gift of salvation does not change because we will not listen to the message that allows God to change our heats. Eventually the message God desires us to hear must be heard and must be responded to by our complete surrender of self to God. We must admit we have tried to earn salvation and by our own efforts try to live in a way that pleases God.
We forget his words “that it is not sacrifice and offerings he desires” but instead he desires a contrite heart.
Jesus’s words to us are alive and continue to challenge us to respond to the gift of his death and resurrection. He tells us plainly “I have come to light a fire on earth.” That my brothers and sisters is not an invitation as many of His messages were; it is a challenge to welcome his promise to baptize us with the Spirit and Fire.
It was Jesus’ mission to fulfill the promise of God to change our hearts and make them burn with zeal for God. It was the mission of Jesus to fulfill the promise of God to send us the Spirit who would pour the love of God into our hearts. That Spirit is the one who continues to speak to our hearts and do the work of transforming us into disciples instead of pious church goers. The question for us is are we willing to listen to that Spirit as it speaks to us about embracing who we were created to be.
There is no neutral ground given to us by God. We either live our live according to his will or we live it according to our will.
Today we have a clear and direct message about the reality of God’s desire for us. It calls us to respond to the invitation to allow the Spirit to change us and to deal with the ugly truth of the sin we commit daily by rejecting the one thing that can change our hearts.
Our response to that invitation will show us if we trust in the promises of God or not. Our response will show us how much we are willing to openly embrace the salvation won for us by Christ or how we would prefer to not to be visible witnesses to his gift of salvation. We can avoid the message by discarding it as the people did Jeremiah or we can embrace it as Jesus invites us to embrace him.
Our response to acknowledge Christ before others is of utmost importance. Our response to acknowledge Christ must be visible, vocal and always done in all circumstances.
There is no middle ground here we cannot ignore it or avoid a response. We cannot be like those who avoided the message by removing the prophet. What we do know from the words of Jesus is we can expect rejection, disagreement and even animosity from those who will not accept Jesus in their lives.