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Sunday, October 10
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
O God, Spirit of righteousness, you temper judgment with mercy. Help us to live the covenant written upon our hearts so that when Christ returns we may be found worthy to be received by grace into your presence. Amen.
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
by Kate Huey
The Jewish people, six hundred years before our current era (B.C.E.) must have struggled with many questions. The Old Testament often focuses on the terrible experience of their Exile in Babylon; this week's passage takes a closer look at one point in the history of that crisis when we read from a letter the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the first wave of exiles who were taken into captivity, along with their king, when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar first struck out at the little kingdom of Judah and its great city, Jerusalem, in 597 B.C.E. This first group included not only the king but the leaders of society, including priests, prophets, and craftsmen--in other words, those who could be of use to the Empire. The Babylonians return, of course, in 587 to destroy Jerusalem and its temple and carry more people into captivity. In the ten years between these two disasters, there was speculation about who was responsible for bringing upon the people of God such a calamity. Some people, back in Jerusalem, found comfort in the thought that they had escaped the judgment of God Jeremiah had been warning them about, because God was punishing those who were carried off but not those who were left behind. And then there were the prophets who said the whole thing would blow over in two years, Babylon would fall, and the exiles would return home. Into this conversation enters the great prophet Jeremiah, who speaks surprising words, urging the Jewish people being held in Babylon to settle in for the long haul, to build houses and plant gardens and start families, because they're going to be there for awhile. They'll have to trust God and the promises of God, and even more, they should learn to seek the welfare of their captors, and to pray for them and their city as well. Jeremiah's instruction sounds familiar to followers of Jesus who have also been instructed to pray for our enemies. We like to think that Jesus' teaching was revolutionary, but here we see just how deep the roots of our tradition are, for Jesus is in a prophetic line that stretches back to Jeremiah, and he shares Jeremiah's surprisingly expansive vision that is "good news of great joy" not just for some people but "for all the people" (Luke 2:10-11).
For further reflection
Ralph Waldo Emerson
All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.
Richard Rohr, 20th century
If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it.
John of the Cross, 16th century
Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be a better light, and safer than a known way.
The Nashville Banner
Sometimes the best way to convince someone he is wrong is to let him have his way.
Catherine Aird, 20th century
If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.