Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (2014)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
On occasion when I watch the deliberations of investigative subcommittees in Congress it often appears to me that they seem to be like a a bunch of coyotes doing their best to devour an innocent lamb, an employee of the U.S. government.
Granted, of course, there are some hirelings in government who often take advantage of their position. Nonetheless, the process of investigation, as it appears on television, often seems like a witch-hunt.
Case in point: in late June John Koskinen, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner sat before a congressional sub committee regarding an issue of some lost e mails. During the three-hour process of the investigation, Republican chairman Paul Ryan called the commissioner a “liar.” I do not recall the final outcome of the investigation but the one thing became clear to me was the pressure certain public officials endure before congress. Often they must say to themselves, “What’s the point, why do I sit here before these pompous individuals allowing myself to be shamed in public. I could return to the private sector and live in peace.
Of course, it is often true of many areas of public life: being watched over is part of the job. Being publicly accused of a personal offense, of course, is another matter.
The scriptures for this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time lay out before us two similar situations, one, in the life of Jeremiah the Prophet and the second in the life of Jesus of Nazareth: both felt called to prophetic life, that is to speak out, to be the conscience of their land during times of political or religious unrest. Nonetheless, it seemed to both as an uneasy vocation including public embarrassment. Jeremiah, for instance, complains: “All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day long.”
Yet, despite all this inner turmoil, Jeremiah admits that he has no other option; the call of God is too overwhelming (a fire in the belly) for him to resist. So he continues along despite the his inner unrest
A similar situation occurs in the gospel of Matthew: Jesus strongly feels the call to travel to Jerusalem where he will suffer greatly at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes and be put to death…” He has no fear to go a face all this terror. Peter, always searching for easy answers, approaches him and, in so many words, tells him that he need not necessarily do that. “God forbid that any such thing would ever happen to you,” Peter insists. But Jesus, in harsh words, tells Peter to be quiet: “Get behind me you devil,” he says, “this is none of your business.”
In summary, therefore, we have incidents in the lives of two men who were torn between two decisions: on the one hand, they felt that they must follow their conscience and do as God was calling them. On the other, they admitted to the feeling that they were scared. What should they do? We know what they did: they insisted on doing what their conscience called them to: face the embarrassment and fear. God had called them for a reason. Some day it would all become clear. And so it happened.
I am quite certain that most of us during our lifetime face circumstances that make us wonder whether we should continue in the vocation that God has seemingly laid out for us: perhaps a job is becoming unbearable, physical or mental distress is keeping us from fulfilling the work we once felt called to, perhaps we are not moving up the job ladder as quickly as we hoped, perhaps the once-deep love of spouse and family is waning, or perhaps we are simply feeling rejected in all we do. All of these feelings are becoming more and more common in the world today where pressures keep mounting and our personal identity is less and less appreciated.
It is at moments like this that we, like Jeremiah and Jesus, we may want to give it all up. And yet, like them, the love of our initial call in life to follow God’s lead may still be the best option.
I don’t know what was going on in John Koskinen’s mind that day before the congressional sub committee when Senator Paul Ryan accused him of lying. However, if he was simply trying to do the best job he knew how, he should go home to his family and have a glass of wine and relax.
The scriptures: Jeremiah 20: 7-9 • Romans 12: 1-2 • Matthew 16: 21-27
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time