Exile
  • Sunday, October 13, 2013

21 Pentecost

First reading and psalm: Jer. 29:1, 4-7 • Ps. 66:1-11

Alternate: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c • Ps. 111 • 2 Tim. 2:8-15 • Luke 17:11-19

“And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways; and we will walk in his paths, for the law shall go forth of Zion” (Mic. 4:2, KJV). The gravitational pull of the law draws the nations to Zion, the earth’s center. Editors of the King James Version felt the liberty to write of “the glory and victory of the church.” Sic et non, for the prophet Jeremiah speaks not of Zion’s pull upon nations but of the centrifugal diaspora of a desperate people picked up and carted off to ancient Babylon.

Writing to the elders, priests, prophets and all the people enslaved under Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah speaks not of their return home. Rather, he tells them to build houses, plant gardens, raise families, and seek the welfare of the city where the Lord has sent them into exile. Jeremiah reads their misfortune as an act of God. “For you, O God, have proved us; you have tried us just as silver is tried” (Ps. 66:10). Not only the law goes forth from Zion, but the people of the law go forth too as exiles, resident aliens, strangers in a strange land.

Think not of the Church’s glory and its victory but of its weakness, its declining social power, the world’s indifference to virtually everything it says. Are we being proved, tried, and burnt in the fire of judgment? Is God speaking through the old prophet telling us that the world is not attracted to us and we are not its center? And is there a place for our smallness, our humility, perhaps our humiliation? The prophet speaks: build houses, plant gardens, multiply, pray for those in authority, do not neglect the grace of sacrament and word. Take a vow of stability to the faith once delivered, though surrounded by a sea of idols. Such a quiet witness has worked before. Jews being Jews have caused others to say, “I know that there is no god in all the earth except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15). Christians being Christians have inspired others to ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).

Exile is an occasion to turn the heart toward one’s true center, not the geographic east or the location of any holy place, but the heart turning to itself to discover another self, the beating force of all life. “Remember,” St. Paul says, “Jesus Christ raised from the dead, a descendant of David — that is my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). Uttering the name Jesus Christ, one has said everything, for he was in the beginning, the Word calling being out of nothing, the expectant Word of the prophets, the Word of the law, the Word become flesh in the fullness of time — our teacher, healer, and redeemer.

He is the signpost on the forehead of the baptized. We live in him and he in us, whether the world cares or does not care. We are his in good repute and ill repute. We are his in health and in woe, in birth and in death. Thus we endure everything, dying and rising with him each day. We so love him and so live in him that we do not wrangle about words. We use them, of course, but always to explain the word of truth so that faith ever grows in the fragile environment of a foreign land (2 Tim. 2:8-15).

Look It Up
Read 2 Kings 5:14. A seven-fold dipping of divine gifts.

Think About It
No one will scrub away the invisible tattoo of the divine name placed just above your brow.

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