"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah1:5).

Jeremiah life was one of sorrow, tears and lament. He preached a message of doom but he also offered hope. For fifty years he was rejected and persecuted by his own people. He is called the “weeping prophet.”

The prophet Jeremiah was a young man when God called him to be his servant and to perform a special task for him: “See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant" (Jeremiah 1: 10).

Jeremiah thought it was a daunting assignment and he looked for an excuse: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth."  Like Jeremiah, God calls us to be his witnesses in the world; at times this call might seem overwhelming and we might try to find excuses for not accepting it. However, it should be noted that God does not call us without equipping us for the mission. “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” God supplies all that we need to enable us to be his spoke persons in our society; he does not leave us on our own.

Anyone who takes God’s call seriously must be prepared for rejection and negative responses from members of the society. Our own families will reject us: “and a man's foes will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). Christians and people of goodwill who set out to change the direction in which the society is going or who try to reshape the life of the nation often experience rejection and rebuff. Today’s Gospel speaks to this problem of rejection which is common to all societies: "Is not this Joseph's son?"

We all know the difficulties and problems that come our way when we go into new situations and try to implement change; it can be frustrating. Not only can it be frustrating but persons set out to frustrate us, to beak our will and drive us into despair.  When we find ourselves in these situations we can identify with Jesus who says: “"Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country.”

We should see ourselves as persons who God calls to transform the sinful structures of the society in which we live. He calls us “to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant" (Jeremiah 1: 10). Within this context of God’s call we are to be persons who speak the truth and live the truth, people who are honest and promote honesty, men and women who live just lives and promote justice, servants of God who are willing to denounce whatever is evil and sinful without compromise.

Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to follow the example of Jesus and Jeremiah who were fearless in their critique of the society. Why are people afraid to denounce what is evil in society? There is a real fear among people that if they express disapproval of the ills of society they or their families will be victimised. Some close their eyes to society’s wrongs because to do otherwise might jeopardise their climb up the social ladder. Many persons keep their silence in the face of evil because they do not want to offend the powers that be. We do more harm than good when we allow evil to go unchecked.

Christians and people of good will must have the courage to call a spade a spade. We do it not to embarrass, shame or humiliate people, not to promote ourselves within the society, not to be trouble makers as some would want to accuse us, but for the sole purpose of making our society a just nation that treats each person as a child made in the image of God. Our denunciation of the society’s way of life must be done lovingly and with gentleness. 

Plucking up, breaking down, destroying and rebuilding will cause offence. Why? This action might cause people to lose their privileged status, expose their lives to scrutiny, reveal the evils of communities, judge individuals and rock the boat.  Christians and people of good will who accept God’s call to speak to the nation cannot abdicate their responsibility to confront the issues that affect the nation. We must accept that our work will cause disruption in the nation and it might result in a kind of unease. Like Paul we have an obligation to do God‘s work in the face of resentment and hardship. We must obey God and not man. As we embrace this work of plucking up, breaking down and rebuilding we must be ever conscious of the consequences our actions might have. Jesus went about his work knowing full well what was likely. He said: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:34-35). Christian witness can be very disruptive and unsettling.

Acceptance of God’s call to speak to the nation in his name has its challenges.  It can expose us and our families to danger; there is always the risk of persecution; we might be misunderstood and our motives questioned. We should not accept God’s call to speak for him if we are not prepared to accept the suffering that it will bring. Anytime we seek to stand above the society in which we live we must expect trouble. The moment we try to be different the community will look for ways to destroy us and tarnish our message. Christian witness is not for the faint hearted.

If we embark on speaking to the nation in God’s name we must ensure that our lives are not tainted by the very things we denounce.  We must ensure that we live moral lives, honest lives, truthful lives, just lives and are people of integrity. No one will take us seriously if they know that what we preach is not what we practise. They will say to us ‘physician heal thyself.”

All of us must have the courage to speak the truth and do what is right if we are to be true to God. Spouses must be able to say to their partners what you are doing is not right. Parents must be able to say to their children what you doing is not right. Children must have the will to say to their parents what you are doing is not right. In any situation in which we find ourselves that is contrary to our Christian values we must be able to say “this is not right.”

Let us pray and ask God to give us the fortitude to name what is evil and corrupt in our society and communities, call our people to repentance and give them a promise of hope.

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