Should Pope Francis not have a temper? Wednesday, the second week in Lent – Jeremiah 18:18-20/Matthew 20:17-28

We think of prophets as perfect! They were far from it, yet God called them, as he did with so many in the Bible and through history, knowing fully well that those called were not perfect. Jeremiah did not even want the job. He protested when God called him from the countryside to the city, from local interests to national concerns.

His ministry spanned forty years and such was the sadness, loneliness and rejection that he faced, that he has come to be known as the weeping prophet. He lived to see the fall of the northern kingdom to the Assyrians, then the subordination of his own country as a vassal nation to a new superpower, the Babylonians and finally the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the exile of his people.

Jeremiah called his people time and time again to repentance. They simply rejected his call and what’s worse is that they plotted to kill him. The text of today opens with the words of the people who are plotting against him. They seem to suggest that there was no dearth of prophets, priests or wise men that made Jeremiah indispensable. They would rather bring false charges against him than hear this prophet of doom and gloom.

While the text reflects the suffering of the honest and those of integrity at the hands of powerful and corrupt wheeler dealers it also leaves one wondering why does God allow the innocent to suffer? Here is a prophet who by his very words cries out in innocence. It was he who intervened and held back the wrath of God against them and yet they would rather kill him than repent.

Ironically, this suffering prophet also gave in to thoughts of revenge. The words of revenge are venom-filled. Verses 21-23(not in the reading of today) tell us how he wishes famine over the children of his adversaries, wishing these children dead by the sword. He prays that their wives become widowed, their men die of pestilence and their youth die on the battlefield. He wishes their houses destroyed by marauders and he finally asks God “not to forgive their iniquity.

These are not words we expect from a man of God yet it gives us an insight into the fragility that these earthen vessels, chosen by God, truly are. We tend to highlight their failings and faults, even as in the case of Jeremiah, they are between few and far. We like to malign people who stand for God because they hold a moral mirror to the world; one that does not show us the powder and paint of made-up beauty but the blackness of our soul.

Does Pope Francis get angry? I know he does. There have been several public instances when an over-enthusiastic pilgrim has caught his hand and almost toppled him over. He has reacted in a moment of anger though after which has profusely and publicly apologized. Yet the haters will make little reels to mock him as if by highlighting his little failings they will assuage their sinful positions and proposition of life.

Like the prophets and saints, we all struggle. The spiritual life is never easy though it is not impossible. If Jeremiah could lose his composure and wish every evil in the world for his adversaries then we have to take comfort that God overlooks our moments of indiscretions. The challenge is to ensure that those failing are but moments and not turned into a lifestyle.

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