March 8, 2023
by George Butterfield
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Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 232

Jeremiah 18:18-20
Psalm 31:5-6, 14, 15-16
Matthew 20:17-28

Praying Lent

The first scripture course I had in graduate school was on the Book of Jeremiah. I was impressed by the beauty of it but I may have imbibed a little too much of the spirit of Jeremiah. The prophet was constantly blowing things up. He preached a homily in the temple (ch. 7) and they banned him from the temple for good. He had the audacity to say that, if the people didn’t repent, God would come and destroy the place. From then on, he had to write his homilies and give them to Baruch to preach. As a young, inexperienced pastor, I too had a knack for blowing everything up. Eventually I read a book which contrasted being a prophet with being an agent of change. Both are necessary but sometimes you need to focus on changing things and not throwing bombs. However, even then, if you speak the truth, you will be resisted. Jeremiah had numerous plots against his life, one of them originating in his home town. The people who knew him best wanted to kill him.

The sentiment of the psalm is very much in the spirit of Jeremiah. He got to a point in his life where he believed that only God could be trusted, only the Lord could keep him out of the snares and traps set by his enemies. During Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours there is a scripture reading followed by a responsory. During Lent, the responsory is:

¬†God himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
- God himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
From those who would trap me with lying words
- and from the hunter’s snare.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
- God himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.

If you have experienced a whispering campaign, those consulting together and plotting against you, then you are able to understand Jeremiah and the psalmist who could only cry out, “Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.”

In the Gospel story, James and John remind me of Jeremiah. All three of them were young when God called them. They had no clue that following God would lead to suffering and death. Jesus tried to tell them this, but they didn’t get it. How ironic is it that James and John ask for the best seats in the kingdom right after Jesus tells them what will happen to him in Jerusalem? They think that Jesus’ chalice is what the king drinks from at a banquet. The other ten apostles are indignant: they want the best seats in the kingdom. The baptism liturgy states that the newly baptized is now a prophet, a priest, and a king. Jesus shows us what it looks like to be a king. He serves, he gives his life as a ransom for the lost.

We don’t need to go around striving to blow everything up. However, if you live and speak the truth, there will be those who plot against you. Jeremiah’s own family wanted him dead. Jesus came to serve his people and was killed for it. During Lent we embrace the call to follow Jesus to the cross. We cry out, “Save me, O Lord, in your kindness” and we do so with the confidence that “God himself will set me free from the hunter’s snare.”

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