Recently at Mass, we heard the opening words of the first reading, “You duped me, o Lord, and I let myself be duped.” I thought to myself, “Oh, hold onto your butts!” Because I knew what was coming next. Here’s the full reading:
“You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.
“Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.
“I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”
Eh? Eh? Who doesn’t go around feeling like “I must cry out; violence and outrage is my message” these days? Like the bumper sticker says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
Even more, you get to feeling like if you’re not shouting about what you’re outraged about, you’re part of the problem. There is so much to be upset about, and there are so many people hell bent on pretending everything is fine, or else pretending that the real problem is something else entirely. They believe and insist on facts that are sheer lies; they defend and applaud things that are sheer evil. Sometimes you feel that you have no choice: You really must speak up, so at least one person is telling the truth.
And unless you’ve entirely sealed yourself off into a bubble, you’re probably also very familiar with that feeling of being mocked, derided, attacked, just for telling the truth. Some people have been ostracized by their families for standing their moral ground. Some people have been made miserable at their jobs.
Some people have had to endure an endless string of nastiness from strangers on social media, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when it’s happening to you, and it goes on and on and on, it really can be a big deal. All you were doing was telling the truth, and now you’re suffering for it.
Little wonder the Old Testament passage hit so hard this time around. So many of us feel like prophets, begging people to listen, crying out against foolishness and lies, and reeling under the blows and buffets of a mob that doesn’t want to hear the very thing they need to know.
Now here is what I am going to ask…
Image: Study for Jeremiah (detail) by Henri Fuseli via Wikimedia