Holy Week readings for the Daily Office supplement our reflections on the passion of our Lord. This week, as I have mentioned several times, is in liturgical 'real time'--the last week of Jesus is well documented and we can dig deeply into them on the days of the week they took place.
Monday we read from Jeremiah 12:1-6. It is a challenging reading, as it faces the very questions which atheists and agnostics throw in our face when they make their arguments against God-belief. I will paraphrase Jeremiah's words and God's response.
(Jeremiah) I know you will win the argument, Lord, but I do wonder why evil people prosper? It seems like there is no justice, the bad guys do well. Poor folks are getting the raw end of the deal, they try to do right but the oppressors walk away with the victory. The folks who say that God does not matter seem to be right.
(God) Jeremiah, if you cannot handle the present troubles what are you going to do when the real problems arrive? This is nothing compared to what you will face in the future. Unfortunately, it turns out that your own family has betrayed you and intends to do you harm--do not trust them.
There is not much prosperity gospel in Jeremiah. His experience was not one of "abundant blessings" even if the Lord did provide for him. Jeremiah is not a foot stomping, hand clapping, "ain't life grand!" happy believer. He lived in dark days with a gathering storm which would destroy all that he knew and loved. He also had insight into God, a God who mourned the loss of His "beloved" (v7) people whose infidelity and rejection and injustice were now coming home to roost. They have made it desolate and it mourns Me declares God about His people. So God confirms their choices and makes them desolate.
Why is the world the way it is? How come the innocent suffer and the bad guys win so often? Why is injustice often the way to great riches? I think Jeremiah's answer is that God hands us (corporately) over to our choices. The world is ours, in many ways, and we are free to do as we choose. Those choices have consequences, both in this world and in the Divine realm. Judgment, here and now, is often less than just to our eyes. God does not intervene as we deem He should or must. The God of Jeremiah does act, but it is concert with our actions. Jeremiah's doom and gloom are reflective of his time--the fall of the nation and destruction of the Temple were really gloomy. Yet, in other places, we hear a promise of future renewal. Dark days will give way to new light. Hope is the final message, even if in the meantime there are unpleasant days.
Too often God is described as the one who makes all our troubles go away. He is a helicopter mom/dad ever ready to rescue us from any folly. No consequences, no challenges. The words of Jeremiah add another layer to our theo-logy (God talk). Here is the Father God who tells his children, "Suck it up. If you think this is tough you are not going to be able to handle what comes next." The Lord, because He loves us, wants us to be brave and strong, too. We are here to build souls ready to love and worship God. Faithful service is central. Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered, unfortunately we need the same lessons. That is what it means to live in a fallen world, a place where some may doubt God exists, but no one can doubt there is sin and evil! In such a world, we must often time lower our head and pull the cart. Slowly walking with our load. Doing it all, regardless of the circumstances, because we love the One Who made us, we adore the One Who is saving us, and we obey the One Who calls us into fellowship with Him.