It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!” But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.
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
In the quiet Ohio neighborhood where I live, a passage such as this from Jeremiah is hard to grasp. My neighbors and I don’t generally think in terms of enemies hatching plots against us. My family doesn’t talk in terms of others betraying, wounding or killing us. Around here, the few people who think in such terms are generally regarded as eccentric—conspiracy theorists and the like.
Yet, all of us are called to grapple with these difficult scriptures. Even if we ourselves don’t feel threatened at the moment, we might pray this passage on behalf of people for whom plots, violence and evil are an everyday reality: neighborhoods where shootings are common; victims of domestic violence; war-torn countries. Perhaps the passage is calling us to stand with the suffering–by entrusting their cause to God in prayer, and by taking action ourselves to end war and violence in our world.
Notice in the passage that it is God whom we ask to “take vengeance” against evildoers in the ways that God deems best. This passage doesn’t tell us to take the responsibility for vengeance upon ourselves. We entrust our cause to God.
Another way to grapple with this passage is to look inside ourselves. Are there inner critics, grudges, anxieties, addictions or ways of thinking that keep you from living fully? Are there habits of the heart that incapacitate the person God is calling you to be?
—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Xavier University’s theology program and belongs to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. She is also a published poet.
Oh God, I entrust to You my life and all I care about. Search my mind and heart. Lead me away from thoughts and temptations that do not come from You. Dear God, I also entrust to you the people for whom violence is an everyday reality. Help me work to alleviate their suffering. Amen.
—Mary Anne Reese