Prayer for peace

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jeremiah 20, 1-18

Now the priest Pashhur son of Immer, who was the chief of police in the Temple of Yahweh, heard Jeremiah making this prophecy.

Pashhur struck the prophet Jeremiah and then put him in the stocks, in the Upper Benjamin Gate leading into the Temple of Yahweh.

Next day, Pashhur had Jeremiah taken out of the stocks; Jeremiah then said to him, 'Not Pashhur but Terror-on-every-Side is Yahweh's name for you.

For Yahweh says this, "I am going to hand you over to terror, you and all your friends; they will fall by the sword of their enemies, your own eyes will see it. The whole of Judah, too, I shall hand over to the king of Babylon; he will carry them off captive to Babylon and put them to the sword.

And all the wealth of this city, all its stores, all its valuables, all the treasures of the kings of Judah, I shall hand over to their enemies who will plunder them, round them up and carry them off to Babylon.

As for you, Pashhur, and your whole household, you will go into captivity; you will go to Babylon; there you will die, and there be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies." '

You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. I am a laughing-stock all day long, they all make fun of me.

For whenever I speak, I have to howl and proclaim, 'Violence and ruin!' For me, Yahweh's word has been the cause of insult and derision all day long.

I would say to myself, 'I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more,' but then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not do it.

I heard so many disparaging me, 'Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!' All those who were on good terms with me watched for my downfall, 'Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we shall get the better of him and take our revenge!'

But Yahweh is at my side like a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, vanquished, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.

Yahweh Sabaoth, you who test the upright, observer of motives and thoughts, I shall see your vengeance on them, for I have revealed my cause to you.

Sing to Yahweh, praise Yahweh, for he has delivered the soul of one in need from the clutches of evil doers.

A curse on the day when I was born! May the day my mother bore me be unblessed!

A curse on the man who brought my father the news, 'A son, a boy has been born to you!' making him overjoyed.

May this man be like the towns that Yahweh overthrew without mercy; may he hear the warning-cry at dawn and the shout of battle at high noon,

for not killing me in the womb; my mother would have been my grave and her womb pregnant for ever.

Why ever did I come out of the womb to see toil and sorrow and end my days in shame?


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The passage we just read is divided into two parts (the first from verse 1 to 6 and the other from verse 7 to 18). In the first section the sacred author tells of the violent reaction of Pashhur, one of the most important priests of the temple of Jerusalem, perhaps the head of its administration, to the harsh words of the prophet, who spoke against a religion consisting of rituals and liturgical acts that did not involve a personal choice to listen to the Word of God. Jeremiah was put into the stocks, although only for a short time. It was an attempt to silence the prophet’s words. But, once he was released, Jeremiah immediately began speaking again. He addresses Pashhur directly and threatens him because of his opposition to the prophetic word. Nonetheless, facing prison and this constant opposition, Jeremiah feels the responsibility to understand the call he has received from God in a new way. No one can be a prophet on his or her own initiative nor can a prophet simply act out of personal conviction. This is why the monologue that follows reveals Jeremiah’s interior life and plumbs the depths of his vocation. The prophet turns to God and explains his difficult situation with a prayer. This prayer is simultaneously a call for help and an expression of his certainty that God is near: “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.” From these words emerges the power of the Word of God. It becomes like a “burning fire” that upsets the prophet and forces him to speak, despite of difficulties and suffering. But who can keep the word of God shut up inside? We are reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). But the prophetic message comes into conflict with the power of evil present in the world. Every generation of Christians experiences the conflict between God’s love and the violence of evil. It is a conflict that must be faced by entire ecclesial communities and by individual believers alike, as well as by all people of good will. We can see this in the life of the Church, especially in the experience of those Christians who were persecuted in the past and in those who still suffer for their faith today. Jeremiah’s words underline the violence and harshness of the battle. But the believer who has listened to the Word of the Lord almost becomes possessed by it and its strength. In fact, once someone has tasted the Word of God it is difficult to abandon it. Even in the midst of difficulties, the prophet finds the words to sing of the glory of God. Despite the enemies who surround him and the opponents who seek his ruin, the prophet experiences freedom and salvation. And he praises the Lord, who conquers evil.