Jer 15:10,16-21; Ps 59:2-4,10,11,17,18; Mt 13:44-46
The day of distress is the day we cry out with the Prophet Jeremiah, “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!” When we regret even being born, we cry out with the words of Psalm 59. We need to be rescued from our true enemies, the very enemies of our soul—sin and vice. From these adversaries we need God to defend us. Indeed, these enemies are the source of all that is evil and they suck the very blood from us. They lie in wait for our lives; they rally to come together against us. We don’t even have to provoke their wrath; they are offended by our very efforts to grow in grace and glory. When we embrace the cross and live in the power of the resurrection, our enemies become aggressive and violent. Indeed, the LORD is our strength, and for him we watch more vigilantly than does the enemy lie in wait for us. Not only is the LORD our stronghold, he actively bestows mercy upon us. The LORD shows us the downfall of our foes. So we have every reason to hope, and even reason to rejoice. We can sing a song of praise to revel at dawn, dance for joy, in his mercy. The LORD alone is our refuge in the days of distress. The merciful God calls forth a song of joy and gladness all the days of our life even in the days of distress when we question the blessing of our birth. This indeed is the treasure worth spending everything that we have and all that we are. This is the treasure we taste and see here and at every Eucharist.
In the darkest moments of his ministry, the Prophet Jeremiah is full of doubts about the LORD and his desire to save him. He is close to despair in this passage. He has become a man of strife and contention to all who live in the land. Jeremiah does not engage in the dangerous human intercourse of borrowing money or lending it. He is neither greedy nor impoverished by mortgages. Yet, he is hated and cursed day in and day out. Why is he so hated? Because he found the treasure of God’s word. He devoured this wisdom and it became his only joy and the true happiness of his heart. Because of his delight in the LORD he found no delight in the circle of merrymakers. He was alienated from all that delights those who live only for the treasures of this world. Indeed, Jeremiah suffers the very indignation of God and like the LORD his pain is constant and the wound of love is incurable, refusing to be healed. These ponderings of Jeremiah echo the mystics of every age in the church. This description sounds like the dark night of the spirit that Saint John of the Cross describes as a painful and passive purification from any attachment to longing for the joys of the spiritual life. If our desire for the experience of God is more precious than God, we are idolatrous. At moments like this the prophets and saints in every generation wonder if God loves them at all. During this purification it feels like God is a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide. God seems to be far away when he is most needed. The very prayer of the Lord Jesus upon the cross becomes the only prayer possible, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Indeed the Lord Jesus prays this painfully honest prayer because his human heart is broken and crushed with the weight of our sins. In this prayer Jeremiah and everyone who suffers such continuous pain finds hope and comfort. In his own agony the LORD speaks to his prophet something Christ never heard, something we never want to hear, but something we must listen to. The LORD answered Jeremiah, “If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand: If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece.” Though prophet or saint, we still need to be purified. Unlike the Lord Jesus, who never sinned, we have sinned and continue to long for those things that keep us from God, or replace the LORD in our hearts. Once we have repented and given ourselves over to the purification that only the LORD can perform in our heart of hearts, we will become a wall of brass in the sight of our enemies. Indeed, the LORD’s promise to the Prophet Jeremiah is his promise to us, “For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD. I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.”
In the mystery of the Kingdom we have both an active and a passive role to play. We passively stumble across treasure in a field. Without even looking for it we find something more precious than anything we have every found or longed for. This is that something, of which Saint John of the Cross writes, “I no not what.” Something that is too costly. We could never afford it so we hide it. We put it back where it was and sell everything to buy that field. Then there are times when we set out upon the adventure of life to find the pearl of great price. Once found; our deepest longing is fulfilled and, we can do nothing else but sell all we have to buy it. In both parables, in the active search and in the passive discovery, we finally must give up any and every thing we have to possess that which has possessed us. Such is the mystery of the Kingdom, it alone is worth the sacrifice. All this spiritual growth is nothing less than what the Lord Jesus has already done. He has found the treasure of our souls; he has sought out the pearl of our hearts. For this precious treasure he has given everything upon the cross. Indeed, the cross of Christ is our only friend.