Psalm 79:8, 9, 11, 13
Ordinary Time seems to stretch like and endless horizon from the end of Easter to the beginning of Advent. Unlike the shorter period between Christmas and Lent, this section of time, is more like the summer days in which it falls, long and hot, but punctuated with storm.
It has been hot in Omaha these past weeks, very hot, and these readings descend upon me with the force of a 104 degree afternoon. The furnace of which Jesus speaks seems suddenly real, and I find myself praying that, in the end, I will not turn out to be a weed among the wheat. “Whoever has ears ought to hear,” and so I am trying to listen.
Jeremiah, perhaps, has the key to avoiding falling in with the weeds. “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers: that we have sinned against you.” The difference between the weeds and the wheat is that the latter recognize their complicity with evil and repent of it. How odd that Jeremiah’s first reaction to disaster is to turn inward and recognize that he and his people have sinned against to Lord. Americans, in general, do not link advancing disaster to their personal or collective sinfulness in this way. This is probably a good thing -- it really is dangerous to map events in the world too closely with the moral character of a people. Did we experience 9/11 because we sinned? Jeremiah would probably say yes, and so would some American Christians. I can’t go that far, but there is a way in which the events of this past year have exposed our collective vulnerability. From this perspective, I grieve the wickedness of the world and my participation in it. Repentance is not inappropriate.
The heat of these readings, like a thick and hazy summer afternoon, is a call to repentance and an invitation to hope in God’s ultimate mercy. “Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.”
Perhaps it will be cooler tomorrow.
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