The oracle that we read from the Prophet Jeremiah is particularly scathing in its condemnation of the children of Israel. Jeremiah accuses them of hypocrisy – worshipping God while cheating and abusing the poor.
Do not put your trust in these deceptive words: “’The temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD!’ Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with your neighbor; if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow after other gods to your own harm, only then will I let you continue to dwell in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors long ago and forever” (Jeremiah 7:4-7).
The citizens of Israel took great pride in the Temple, not only in its beauty but also in the belief that God lived among them within the Temple. They firmly believed that God resided in their midst in the Temple. Years later, when the Temple was destroyed, the effects of its destruction was traumatic, even more traumatic than the destruction of their city.
Jeremiah brings them word that God will not continue to be their God if they do not conform their deeds to their words. They cannot worship God on the Sabbath and then continue to rob the alien, the orphan and the widow the other six days of the week.
The same is true for us. We cannot claim to be faithful followers of Jesus because we attend Sunday Mass or even daily Mass if while we are not in church we do not practice the Gospel precepts of love of God and love of neighbor. We cannot continue to gossip about or call our neighbor names and still claim to be good Christians because we worship every week. Our lives must be conformed to the will of God for our worship to be fruitful and meaningful. The beauty of our churches cannot cover the ugliness of lives that are blind to the plight of the poor.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator