In today’s first reading, Jeremiah is having a bad day – maybe a bad year. He is at the end of his rope in dealing with the people of Judah and Jerusalem in his role of prophet. Jeremiah was not a flash-in-the-pan prophet who showed up like Jonah in Nineveh and everything got done in one day. Jeremiah’s ministry lasted 30 years and was ultimately unsuccessful. Jerusalem did not return to the ways of the Lord and as a result God allowed Babylon to utterly destroy Jerusalem, the Temple and take the people into captivity.
Jeremiah probably senses he still has a long time left in his divinely appointed mission – and has an emotional ketchup burst. You know that moment when you go to shake the ketchup bottle, forgetting the cap was already off, and in one explosive moment – “splat” – ketchup everywhere. He curses the day he was born. He calls out God as the prophet laments that he has done everything God has asked, he is committed to the Word and Covenant. What is the result?
“Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide!”
Ever had one of those days? It’s ok to get it all out and have a good shout at God. I think all the prophets had at least one of these moments. And what is good to remember is God’s response to Jeremiah in vv. 19–21. God urges Jeremiah to discard his self-pity and to press on with his task and be assured of divine assistance.
We all have a part to play in the coming of the Kingdom. Our part might be going particularly well, but we are not the only laborer in the fields of the Lord. So, standup, buck up, and know that in the end, we should think back to Monday’s reading: “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7). The mission’s success will always and ultimately be through the power of God.