Today’s readings feature God’s admonition to the “reluctant prophet”, Jeremiah:
The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
– Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 (NAB)
The New American Bible translates this passage somewhat differently than many other versions. Most have God saying something like this to Jeremiah: “Don’t break down before them, or I will break you down before them “. The NAB rendering comes out much more reassuringly: “Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them” (Jer 1:17).
Jeremiah is not on his own. It is God himself who will “fortify” him as “a pillar of iron, a wall of brass”, in order to speak God’s truth to whoever Jeremiah is sent to, without “human respect” – the fear of “what they will say, what they will do”.
We need this courage from God too, in order to boldly hold and profess our Catholic faith in the midst of an often Godless world. But we must live and proclaim it, as Paul admonished Timothy, “in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), when people want to hear the message, and when they don’t.
Today’s Gospel gives us our ultimate example of fortitude in Jesus himself, who didn’t shrink from telling God’s truth to his own townspeople in Nazareth, even though he knew he would alienate many old friends, who were now “filled with fury” (Lk 4:28), attempting to destroy him.
May we, too, never be ashamed of the words of the Son of Man.