Commentary on Jeremiah 20:7-9; Ps 100; Matthew 7:13-14, 21-25
The Gospel reading is from Matthew. It is a passage from the Sermon on the Mount, which in general gives a picture of the true disciple of Jesus, beginning with the beautiful set of statements we call the Beatitudes.
Today’s reading comes from the last of the three chapters which make up this long discourse. (Most likely, it was not delivered at one time by Jesus but is rather a collection of his teachings on a single theme.)
In the first part of the reading, Jesus urges his followers to “enter through the narrow gate”. That gate leads to the Way of Jesus. It has very clearly marked parameters but it is the Way to truth, to unconditional love of God and of one’s brothers and sisters, it is a Way of justice, of compassion for those in need, and the Way that leads to deep fulfilment.
On the other hand, “the gate that leads to damnation is wide, the road is clear and many choose to travel it”. It is the way of unbridled liberalism, a way where anything goes, if you like it, do it.
But it is a road that leads to one’s own ultimate destruction and the destruction of others. We see it every day.
The Way of Jesus, the Way of Truth and Love, can seem very restricting, a narrow gate, and yet to those who choose to walk this Way it is the road to true freedom and fulfilment. And it is the Way that Miguel Pro chose to walk and who risked his life in helping others who also wanted to go the Way of Jesus.
In the second part of the reading, Jesus tells his disciples that simply calling out ‘Lord, Lord’ will not guarantee one a place in God’s Kingdom. Only those who faithfully carry out God’s will in their lives will be part of his Kingdom. And that is really a definition of the Kingdom: the Kingdom exists wherever people are living their lives in the way that God wants.
At the end, when “that day” comes, it will not be enough to say that one did all kinds of things in the name of God – that one prophesied, that one exorcised people, or even performed miracles. One hears of certain people who claim to do all these things and attract large numbers of people to them as ‘wonderworkers’ with a direct line to God or a saint. But, where God is concerned, it means nothing if they are not living according to the will of God as laid out for us by Jesus in the Gospel. On meeting the Lord, they will cry out: “We expelled devils in your name!” And God will say to them the terrible words: “I never knew you.”
Again, such accusations could never be thrown against Miguel Pro. He served his Lord not by any sensational demonstrations but, behind closed doors, bringing Christ to his brothers and sisters and doing so at great risk to his life. Publicity was the last thing he wanted. Ironically, it was in his death that his enemies gave him that publicity.
The First Reading from the prophet Jeremiah is a beautiful passage where Jeremiah speaks of the pain he experiences in being a prophet and yet a pain that he in no way can avoid, or wants to avoid. It must reflect the feelings that Miguel Pro experienced in leading a life where he was always just one step ahead of those anxious to destroy him.
Jeremiah begins by partly mocking his God and himself: “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of ridicule; everyone mocks me.” Miguel, too, allowed himself to be duped by his Lord but did not for a moment regret it. The power of Jesus’ love was too strong and could not be resisted but, as a result, he became a man on the run, an object of contempt for his enemies.
Jeremiah complains that he has no choice but to pass on the message of his Lord but he pays a high price for it. “Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message” – the violence that will come when God’s people do not listen to him. “The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.”
Not surprisingly, he would like to keep silence and not endure such derision but he knows he cannot. “I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more, but then it comes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my very bones, I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”
Miguel Pro would surely have identified with every word in this experience of Jeremiah. How nice it would have been to run away from Mexico and go to some place where it is easy to be a practising Catholic. But there is no way he could have done that. His flock needed him. He was the good shepherd ready to die for his sheep.
May our Church have many such sheep at every level in the task of our Christian mission.