“You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped” Wow…strong words from the prophet Jeremiah. Duped, tricked, suckered, fooled, hoodwinked. No one likes to be the unwitting tool in another’s hands, the butt of a joke, or play the part of the fool. Not too many people are keen to say they were Bernie Maddoff’s friend. I am sure his investors look back, knowing their money is forever gone, and think, “How could I have been duped like that?” No one likes such moments. Jeremiah doesn’t like it at all and cries out against the circumstances.
God called Jeremiah to be the prophet and Jeremiah answered –twice! No doubt those were heady days – to be so connected to the Lord, called to do his work, and now…. And now. Where was God when I was ridiculed, ignored – when people scorned and laughed at me. Maybe God is weak and I was duped into thinking otherwise. Ok, call me once to be prophet – shame on you. Call me twice – shame on me if I answer. This is why Jeremiah says to himself: “I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more.” This has the passion and the sound of an argument between lovers!
He wants to walk away, but Jeremiah just can’t let it go. His encounter with the Lord is “like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.” It is a desire unquenchable and Jeremiah finds he must continue, must go on being the prophet of the Lord – he can do no other.
Poor Jeremiah. He sounds more like someone ensnarled in love’s desire – that burning fire, that passion that drives us to do what we swore we would not do. And in the heat of the moment we can either think the God is just hoodwinking us… does God do that? I think not – but does God love? God is love. And love comes a calling in its own unique ways.
Interestingly the word translated as “duped” can also be translated as “court,” “woo,” or “seduce.” You seduced me, O Lord, and I let myself be seduced. That is the way it was translated in the OT up to the prophet Jeremiah. The seduction, the wooing, the courting by God is an ongoing theme in Scripture. It is the story of the Book of Hosea. Hosea, the prophet, continues courting and wooing his wife Gomer who loves him, leaves him, return to him, leaves again – and yet Hosea never falls out of love – always forgives and never hoodwinks. Hosea always proposes love. Love unrelenting, love ever faithful. And when Gomer leaves again. Hosea does not cry out You duped me, O Gomer, and I let myself be duped. Hosea, like God, offers love. That is always Hosea’s plan.
And yes Hosea’s marriage is a metaphor for God’s marriage to us his people. Despite all our plans and ambitions, God has a plan for us – a plan that He always proposes – and then woos, courts, and seduces us to His will. It is why St Paul in the second reading prays for us they we “may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
And yes there are times our response is going to be “You want me to do what? Really? This is your plan? Really? Really?” And so we hopefully take St Paul’s advice and discern through prayer if this is what God wants of us. But, sometimes we are stuck on “Really?”
Just last week: “And who do you say that I am?” and Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And now this week Jesus tells Peter to follow him to Jerusalem where he will be witness to the Lord’s suffering and death. Really? Really? No way that is not going to happen!! Such are words of love that cry out to protect, safeguard and hold close the one loved. Maybe Peter should have cried out “You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped”
In that same moment, hearing Peter’s words, filled with concern for Jesus’ safety, perhaps Jesus’ feels the pull of those words of woo, courting, of seduction. They were tempting words, no doubt. Words that were luring Jesus away from his fate on the cross – words of love that tempted Him to turn away from his Father’s will and take a human path to safety and live. In that moment, Jesus could have turn to his heavenly Father and cried out about being duped. Instead he turns to Peter, and says “Satan” – lit. the tempter – “Get behind me.” Your words are tempting, Peter, but I am headed to Jerusalem. I love you, so get behind and follow me.
And back to us. That encounter with life in which God desire from us a response to his call to love. And God comes a courting. “You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped” – or the realization that deep within us is something unquenchable – that as the psalm says, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” And we have a choice – our will or God’s will.
Maybe your moment past or to come is writ large. Trust me there are days when I linger on the edge of Jeremiah’s plaintive cry – Lord, you duped me. I had a very nice job, wealth, and a good life. You tricked me into leaving career, money and doing what I wanted. You got me to trade in my business suits for what amounts to a brown dress of the Franciscan habit. Really? …. So, yes there are down days, but there are up days, moments of grace and brilliance, moment of doubt and hesitation. But each day, I take a breath and remember He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I remember the fire burning deep within – even if it seems distant at the moment. I remember.
I remember this is my God who is always wooing and courting me to His will. And in remembering, I can pray: “You have seduced me, O LORD, and I let myself be seduced… …Thank you.”