July 30, 2018
by Edward Morse
Creighton's University's Law School
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 401

Jeremiah 13:1-11
Deuteronomy 32:18-19, 20, 21
Matthew 13:31-35
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

What If I Have Trouble Getting Better?

Today’s readings present a strong message about the importance of obedience and humility in our spiritual journey.  Faith and faithfulness can grow from small beginnings.  But doubt and rebellion may also get started from small things, too.   
In the first reading, the word that came to Jeremiah probably made little sense at the time.  Why wear a loincloth without washing it?  Why bury a perfectly good and new article of clothing?  In those days, cloth was expensive; one did not simply go to the store instead of doing laundry if your underwear drawer ran low! 

Jeremiah was obedient.  He would later discover that the burial was an object lesson for him to teach the people a hard truth.  Biblical commentators note the place of burial (Perath) was probably the village and spring of Parah, whose name resembled the Hebrew word for the Euphrates.  This symbolized the religious influences of the Babylonians, which had corrupted the people and turned them away from following the Lord.  Here, something good was hidden by the act of a man (Jeremiah), and thereafter hidden forces corrupted and ruined it.  Burial produced decomposition – a rotting loincloth, good for nothing. 

We might have liked another outcome – the loincloth could have been preserved, washed, and worn again, symbolizing renewal!  That would be the gospel message yet to come.  But that was not the message that Jeremiah was given.  The hard message that our prideful, stubborn waywardness leads to corruption and death must first be transmitted loudly and clearly.   

Today’s Psalm seems to poke fun at our foolish ways:  “what a fickle race they are, sons with no loyalty in them!”  But sometimes we can only see our foolishness from a distance.   When we lose our way, we cannot find the source of goodness.  We chase it where it cannot be found. We forget who we are.  How many of us have lost our bearings for a time and drifted into a sinful path, only to wake up and think:  This is not goodness.  And I am not this kind of person!  God, please help me find my way!  I am lost on this earth.

Thanks be to God that he can rescue us.  The short reading from James tells us: “The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  The word of truth – the gospel message in all its fullness – comes to us and presents a divine offer of generosity.  If we look carefully, we can see many points of grace that have, over time, moved us toward the light.  We may also see points where we resisted that movement.  We are part of that stubborn and fickle race, too. 

Matthew’s gospel presents other parables, which are packed with truth for those who seek after it. Yeast and the mustard seed both show how seemingly small and insignificant things can be transformed into something impactful. Like the magic of compound interest, the principle of incremental change can work for you or against you.  Our sins can beget corruption and loss, just as Jeremiah illustrated with his cloth.  But our faithfulness can beget something bigger and more wondrous than we could have imagined. 

Lord, grant us the humility to pause our doings, to listen, and to seek your face.  Show us where we are fickle and resistant to your goodness.  Help us to recognize that you have made us, and that we have been graced to receive the word of truth, even in living form, through your Son.  Amen.  

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