Again and again and again – Wednesday, 18th week in ordinary time – Jeremiah 31:1-7

We continue with the study of the ‘Book of Consolation’ found in chapters 30 and 31 of the prophet Jeremiah. ‘The book is so called because God’s mercy and faithfulness (31:3) is presented with God’s great ability to comfort and to open the hearts of the afflicted’ ( Pope Francis).

The text of today is an exilic text. After years of warnings from Jeremiah and several other prophets, disaster finally befalls Judah: the city of Jerusalem is sacked, the temple destroyed, the king and his court deported or dead. The deportees who survived the journey to Babylonia were faced with a strange new life in a foreign country, their movements and actions were subject to a foreign power, whose orders were conveyed through authorities speaking a foreign language.

The exile was a devastating experience for the people of Israel. Their faith had wavered because they found themselves  in a strange land; without the Temple, without worship and after seeing their homeland destroyed, it was difficult continue to believe in the goodness of the Lord.

For the Jews, the loss of the two pillars of Judaism, the temple and their land was tantamount to a loss of national identity. They were de facto ‘persona non grata’ The Lord, who promised David a continuous kingship in his lineage, had now deserted them. With this, all hope for Israel seemed dead. Jeremiah, who was the prophet of the doom until now, comes with a message from God. He addresses the Israelites who have been deported to Babylon with the ‘promise of the new covenant’. He foretells their return to the homeland. This return is a sign of the infinite love of God, the Father who never abandons his children, but who takes care of them and saves them.

The text opens with God reiterating what he said in 30:22; ‘They shall be HIS people and he shall be THEIR God. But he will not just be God of some families who were faithful and who survived the exile but God to all of Israel. (31:2) Much consolation is found for the sinner in these words. God’s mercy (hessed) or as the text of today puts it, HIS faithfulness, does not distinguish between saint and sinner. His love is for all who wish to receive it.

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