"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: The Grace of Tears (DAY 14)

The Weeping Prophet c. 2019 by Ashley Inniss

Today is Day 14 of the 30-day whole community retreat journey in light of the lockdown. 

Points Of Departure:

First Point: Jeremiah as the Weeping Prophet to the Nations

During the entire Lenten season almost all the first readings are from the OT prophets. If during Advent we have John the Baptist who serves as precursor. During Lent I would like to believe it is the prophet Jeremiah who serves that important role.

A prophet is God’s mouthpiece especially when periods of spiritual degeneration occur and the people of Israel will need constant reminders to go back to God and repent. Every Lent, like the Israelites of old, the prophets speak to us bearing that same message to remember the God who saved Israel and to keep the covenant God made with His people. These prophets spoke nothing but God’s word. Israel ought to hear and obey or else there will be unavoidable consequences. The harsh predictions made by the prophets almost always led to their tragic end. Any prophet would not savor such a costly call. Jeremiah tried to escape at first. Despite being the mouthpiece of God, they too feared greatly for their own lives.

He was only a boy when God called him—perhaps only about twenty. He complained that he did not know how to speak and had a stammer. “I…am…only...a.a.a.a...boy.” Eventually he allowed himself to be seduced by a God who knew him before he was formed in the womb. Among all the prophets, it is in Jeremiah that we get to clearly see the conflicting inner life of a prophet; hence, the title “the weeping prophet.” Moreover, because his influence was not only for his own nation Israel but for neighbouring nations as well, he was called by God as “a prophet to the nations.”

What Jeremiah found to be so difficult to tell his people was that part of God’s prediction that they will be exiled in Babylon for a long period. To continue resisting is useless; it is unavoidable. By doing this he was seen as a traitor and his prophecy was used to put him in prison. At the end of his long and difficult life we find him standing amidst the rubble of Jerusalem, amidst the wreckage of his own life as well—the destruction that he predicted upon all of Israel broke his own heart too.

The story of Jeremiah did not end there. We come to the last part in his life that earned him the shining example of what it means to be a man of God. His Hebrew name literally means, “the Lord casts down.” He witnessed with his own eyes how the Temple of Jerusalem was cast down by the invading Babylonians, who looted all their precious and sacred paraphernalia. Yet nothing seemed to have defeated or cast down the prophet’s lion heart. The ill-will and hatred of his own people towards him, even the experience of being abandoned by God himself, was not enough to cast this remarkable man down.

He never gave up on his love for his own people despite the heartbreaks. As soon as the exiles arrived in Babylon, Jeremiah wrote a letter telling them with tenderness to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, and find spouses for their children. They must increase in number and promote the good of the city like their home. He continued to instill hope in the heart of his people who suffered a lot by looking at the positive side of things, assuring them that one day God will bring them back home. After all, exile is for purification and it is not for annihilation or destruction. Truly, Jeremiah was a true servant of God whose last word was surely not punishment but mercy. This period of Lent let us emulate the good example of Jeremiah.

Second point: Pope Francis said that sometimes tears are the only true response to the question of why the innocent suffer. This is what he advocates a theology of tears: tears of compassion, compunction and consolation. After all the Pope is a son of St. Ignatius who was always in tears every time he thought about God. When the strongest typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines and claimed more than 6,300 human lives, and 1,071 missing, Pope Francis told the Filipinos not to be afraid to ask God, "Why?"

At this stage in the retreat, notice how your chosen place and rhythm of prayer are supporting your growing attentiveness to God’s action within you. Make any adjustments which will help you to be more sensitive to God’s invitation during prayer and throughout the day. I take the usual time to place myself before God in reverence, begging that everything in my day be more and more directed to God’s service and praise." (Spiritual Exercises 91).

Grace To Beg For: To ask for what I desire... to cry with those who are in great sorrow and fear.

Word Of God: (See full texts below from universalis.com) 

1. Jeremiah 11:18-20 

Questions and Considerations To Ponder:

1. Do I blame a hostile environment for my unbelief? Like Jeremiah fear affected him but not to the point of turning his back from God's call. How much of my life is ruled by fear?

2. Jeremiah is "the weeping prophet," which was his way of lessening his grief. Shakespeare said, "To weep is to lessen the depth of grief." When was the last time that you had a good cry? How did you feel?

3. The Prophet Jeremiah was an affectionate and gentle person. He expressed very intimate and heartfelt dialogue with the Lord. He remains ever faithful like a lamb despite the pain and difficulty brought by his mission. Where is God calling you at this point of the global crisis?

4. The people of Israel went through the exile as a form of purification and not annihilation or destruction. Going in exile was unavoidable because of the many wars. Is a pandemic something that is also inevitable? How can we learn from this crisis?

Prayer Requests:
You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIPusing 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ
Jeremiah 11:18-20 ·

I am like a trusting lamb led to slaughter.

I knew their plot because the Lord informed me; at that time you, O Lord, showed me their doings.
  Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: “Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more.”
But, you, O Lord of hosts, O just Judge,
  searcher of mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
  for to you I have entrusted my cause!