Jer 30:1,2,12-15,18-22; Ps 102:16-21,29,22,23; Mt 15:1,2,10-14
Saint John Vianney gave himself over to sinners, just like the Lord Jesus. He spent countless hours celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. He had little time for sleep, and often his rest was disturbed by the evil one. Stories abound about the struggles Saint John had to endure as the evil one attacked him trying to dissuade Saint John from reconciling a hardened sinner. No fear and no threat was able to keep Saint John from sharing the boundless mercies of the Father through the healing touch of Jesus His Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Curé d’Ars was always willing to suffer attacks and inconvenience for the sake of any sinner who came his way; like the Lord Jesus, Saint John Vianney was a friend of sinners. They knew it and spread the good news making the confessional line even longer. As a seminarian, Saint John had to overcome many academic challenges; and as a priest, the evil one, the enemy of weak and fearful sinners, became his greatest challenge. The greatest comfort of this loving shepherd was the word of the LORD; Saint John knew that the Good Shepherd was gathering and guarding his flock. The repentant sinners, from far and near, felt the hand of the LORD redeeming them, and shouting they came streaming to the Eucharist to celebrate the LORD’s blessings. Indeed, with the repentant sinners of every generation, our mourning is turned into joy. The intentions of the Good Shepherd’s heart are treasured in the hearts of his priests, and like Saint John Vianney they console and gladden sinners after the sorrows of separation and feelings abandonment.
Zion exists for the glory of God. The People of the LORD have been summoned to reveal his glory to the nations, but they have rebelled against God and turned away from the Law of the LORD. This chosen distance from glory has made the people destitute; they have suffered greatly as a consequence of their sins, but the LORD has not despised their prayer. Indeed, the LORD has looked down from his glorious throne upon the Cherubim; from on high he has beheld the earth. The LORD has heard the groaning of the prisoners and released those doomed to die. Psalm 102 records the jubilation of the future. Indeed, the boundless mercy of God is written for generations to come so that all future creatures will join in the praise of the LORD. It is the children of God’s servants who shall abide in the posterity that comes with the continued presence of the LORD. Where ever dwell the People of God, there abides the LORD God Almighty. There in a New Zion the Name of The LORD is declared great and glorious. There in the New Jerusalem, the Name of The LORD is praised and magnified. In the midst of such splendor and brightness all the peoples will gather together and all the kingdoms of the earth will join in to serve the LORD. Then the renewed and rebuilt People of The LORD will fulfill their purpose and all the peoples of the earth will be glad. As the Prophet Jeremiah proclaims the LORD will take pity on the tents of Jacob and rebuild his City upon the hill and restore the palace as of old. The Good News of the Lord Jesus is proven to be too much for some of the Pharisees and scribes, but the crowds fill the land with great rejoicing. We have been remade and rebuilt by the Lord Jesus; in this liturgy we celebrate our true identity; we are those who continue in His Presence.
For thus says the LORD, “I struck you as an enemy would strike, punished you cruelly.” For thus says the LORD, “See! I will restore the tents of Jacob, his dwellings I will pity.” These two messages came to Jeremiah, and he was commanded to write them down. So that future generations might read them? Why? Perhaps because both of these prophecies are both good news. In the first one the LORD reveals himself as the enemy of Israel. Indeed, the LORD has been and still is the enemy of the false Israel, of the Israel who pledges one thing in worship and does the opposite in daily living. Indeed, we experience the LORD as our enemy when we rebel and disobey him. Our suffering is not meaningless; our painful struggles are the results of our own failures and offences. We are not the random victims of meaningless violence. Rather, we are the rebellious children who suffer the consequences of our rebellion. However, this is not the end of the story. The second message is equally valuable to our self-awareness and our growth in wisdom. It would be utter foolishness to ignore the second message because the first one is so difficult to hear. Indeed, we are loved by the very one who punishes us. This is the meaning of tough love; this is our Heavenly Father’s compassion come down upon us. In his pity we are rebuilt and remade. We have been restored and dare now to approach the LORD of Glory, and we dare to hear him tell us what we never could have deserved of our own merit. We dare to take the deadly risk of approaching the LORD of Glory, and we hear the words that give us new life, “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
The Pharisees and the scribes were not often buddies. They were more often enemies, but in response to the Lord Jesus and the community of his followers these two enemies were friends. They both wanted the Lord and his followers to be eliminated. The Pharisees were lay leaders who were actives in the synagogues, and the scribes were minor clerics who worked for the Sadducees in the temple. They had different loyalties, and the only thing that united them was a fierce opposition to the Lord Jesus. Both groups were watching and waiting for the Lord or his followers to break any tradition so they could be discredited in the eyes of the people. The Lord and his disciples were much more loved and approved by the crowds because they didn’t try to separate themselves. Rather, like the Lord Jesus his disciples became the friends of sinners. Having experienced the mercy of God in the ministry and preaching of the Lord Jesus, they had great compassion on anyone who was weak and sinful. Of course the Pharisees would take offense when they heard the Lord Jesus proclaim, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” Food is not the source of wickedness. Thoughts and feelings of judgment and hate that pass from the mind to the tongue are the source of wickedness. The Pharisees used food regulations and fasting to establish the distinction between their observant life-style and the careless life-style of the common person. To have so little concern about such an important issue, as washing your hands, is definitely reason for suspicion if not for condemnation. This threat did not frighten the Lord Jesus. Upon hearing that his teaching was not politically correct he responded, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Perhaps we need to have the mind of Christ so that we can respond to those who find us dangerously unconcerned with the details of tradition, religious or otherwise. Such a liberation will not come until we are more concerned with the will and wisdom of the LORD Our God than we are with other people’s imposition of their experience upon us. The freedom of the children of God is too much for those who have their own plan for perfection. Such plans often blind us to all the beauty and blessing the LORD has in store for those who love Him.