Saturday, 10/ 5/13
The first reading speaks to those of us who bring troubles on ourselves. It tells us that our first step for putting our sadness behind us must be our recognizing that it has been our fault. Then, after that, we must bend our wills to following the path God sets before us in prayer. Sometimes nothing but harsh medicine will cure us.
The author of the first reading, Baroch, was Jeremiah’s companion. With Jeremiah he had witnessed the rich people of Jerusalem sinking so low that no cure could save them. With Jeremiah he had witnessed the fright of Jerusalem’s wealthy class when their city was surrounded by troops from Babylon. Even though they had always scorned Jeremiah’s warnings, they came to him when their enemies were at their gates.
Jerusalem’s wealthy asked Jeremiah if there was anything they could do to get God on their side. Jeremiah recommended their freeing their slaves. He told them that God was most offended by the rich who made slaves of their own relatives who could not pay their debts.
Anxious to try anything, those rich people freed the family members they had enslaved in payment of debts. Immediately after that, the Babylonians who were besieging them were drawn away by Egyptians attacking them from the south.
So, feeling safe, those filthy rich went out and rounded up their freed slaves. With that, Jeremiah saw that those people were beyond any easy cure. The Babylonians came back, and Jeremiah watched them lead the people off in chains.
Similarly, it could happen to us that our sins would become so much a part of us, that only some life-upsetting cure would be able to turn us around.
As terrible as their captivity was to be for Jerusalem’s rich, in the end it was what was needed. We can see their change of heart in the beautiful Psalm “By the Rivers of Babylon”
Looking for some cheap fun, their captors in Babylon asked the Jews to get out their harps, and to chant them some of their psalms. The Jews refused, saying that their respect for God and his holy songs prevented them from using them for entertainment. They could not put their hands and tongues to that task.
“How could we sing a song of the Lord in this foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand wither, may my tongue stick to my palate.”