Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. Therefore thus says the LORD: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the LORD. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Courage is crucial to our spiritual life. It is crucial because we will inevitably experience trials and desolation, and be tempted to despair. It is in such times that we need the virtue of courage. Today’s first reading from Jeremiah is a classic lament, a tormented man crying out to God for help: “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth! … Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?”
As harsh as this complaint sounds, it is a perfect prayer, expressing to God openly the prophet’s pain. It is not a prayer of despair, for despair turns to the self and gives up on the power of God. Rather, this lamenting prayer is founded on faith in the power of God. The power of God seems absent to Jeremiah, and thus his complaint to God: why do you not use your power to help me?
God responds, of course. He does not simply take away Jeremiah’s trials, but instead infuses him with the virtue of courage by manifesting his power. “And I will make you toward this people a solid wall of brass…. For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD. I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.” Calling out to God in our difficulty is a way to proclaim our faith in his power, and God will give us courage and strength to persevere in our darkest hours.
—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.
Lord, when we call out to you, why do you seem so hidden from us? We struggle to see your presence in the midst of disappointment, pain, and loneliness, yet where is your touch, your voice, a sign to give us hope. But then, you, too experienced this sense of separation as you bled from the cross. And yet you trusted in your Father and you were not disappointed. We hold to this truth – that you do embrace us in our greatest challenges, and we will be graced by an eternal love that will not fail us.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team