Bottom line: Like the boy, Jeremiah, God calls us to spiritual combat
Our readings today speak about spiritual combat. Every person faces this battle - the war between good and evil. God tells Jeremiah, "They will fight against you but not prevail against you, for I am with you to deliver you."
The ones fighting Jeremiah are short-sighted men, men who had forgotten God. In a deeper sense the ones fighting the prophet are demons, the evil spirits who control men's hearts. We are talking about spiritual combat.
Sometimes the work of evil spirits is evident. For example, the people surrounding Israel practiced child sacrifice. Jeremiah and the other prophets opposed the ritual killing of small children - and they warned the Israelites against that horrific practice.
We can clearly see the devil's work in the killing of a small child, but the overall situation was not complete evil on one side and complete good on the other. Those who opposed child sacrifice fell into their own sins. King David fought the Philistines - a people notorious for infant sacrifice - but David had his own sins. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed. He thought he had literally gotten away with murder, but God sent the prophet Nathan to call him to account.
The prophets remind us that it is not enough to simply oppose a culture of sin. Believe me, the demons work harder on us than they do people they already own. The demons didn't have to worry that much about the Philistines. So they focused their attention on King David. He had made war against the Philistines, but he didn't take seriously the war going on in his own heart.
Today we find ourselves in a situation similar to David. A culture surrounds us that has accepted terrible practices: the killing of tiny babies and pervasive sexual immorality. The evil spirits have waged a long campaign to normalize these practices. After forty years of no legal protection for unborn children and more recently, the normalization of sodomy, it sometimes seems like we are in a hopeless situation. But, you know, just like God called the youth, Jeremiah, so God is calling young men - and young women - today. He says these words:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you...They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you."
We are in spiritual combat - a struggle aimed at our young people. We can see the evil spirits at work in our culture of abortion and sodomy - but also in our own hearts. The battlefield is confused. That was the case in Nazareth, as we see in today's Gospel. Jesus had spent 30 years in Nazareth, his home town. It wasn't a small city like Monroe, but a village. Jesus knew everyone and they knew him - or at least they thought they did. On one level the people were good - they spoke highly of Jesus and were amazed at his grace-filled words.
But envy entered their hearts. They said, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" They were wrong. Jesus has no human biological father. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit like we learned earlier in Luke's Gospel. And they were wrong not only about where Jesus came from, but where he was going. They tried to throw him off a cliff. Jesus, however, "passed through the midst of them" and continued his mission.
What an example for us! When things go bad, when people criticize we want to throw in the towel. Jesus did not do that. He continued his mission.
We are in a spiritual battle. It requires love. As St. Paul insists, love is not soft and sentimental. It is as strong as iron. Love, he says, is patient, it is not puffed up or rude. Love is not self-seeking or quick-tempered. It doesn't rejoice in wrong, but instead bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. In the spiritual battle between good and evil, love is what lasts. Faith, hope and love, says Paul, but the greatest is love.
So this Sunday we see that like the boy, Jeremiah, God calls us to spiritual combat. And we hear these words, "They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord." Amen.
From Archives (Homilies for Fourth Sunday, Year C):
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March 2, 2013 at St. Mary of the Valley, Monroe
My bulletin column (Confirmation Candidates, Commissions, 40 Days for Life - Jan 31, 2010)
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