Friday of week 5 of Lent – First Reading


Commentary on Jer 20:10-13

Jeremiah, the prophet, God’s spokesman, is attacked and denounced on all sides by his own people.

“Terror on every side!” is the mocking call of Jeremiah’s critics, satirising his constantly gloomy predictions. “Let us denounce him!” – in the way that he constantly denounces the behaviour of others.

Even his friends abandon him. “All those who were on good terms with me watched for my downfall.” They are waiting for him to make some fatal mistake. “Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we shall get the better of him.” Jesus was treated in exactly the same way by Pharisees and Scribes constantly trying to catch him out in violation of the Law. They ‘plant’ a cripple in a synagogue on a Sabbath day to see if he will heal him. They ask him if it is right or not to give taxes to Caesar – where a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer will be equally incriminating.

But Jeremiah has confidence in his God and his attackers will not prevail. “The Lord is at my side… my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure…” For his God is a God of justice and truth. A God who is on the side of the needy. “Praise Yahweh, for he has delivered the soul of one in need.”

The needy one, ebion, or the poor, anaw, is used in a religious sense: ill-treated by people but confident in God, looking to Yahweh for support. By Jeremiah’s time, the term ‘poor/needy’ had become virtually synonymous with ‘righteous’, someone whose total trust and dependence is on God.

Ultimately, Jeremiah knows, Truth and Justice will prevail no matter what some people try to do. It is a belief that we need to remember ourselves. It is a belief we see realised in Jesus. They could kill his body but not his Spirit.

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