• Our Blogger

    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Nathan on Ask a Priest
    Dennis on Ask a Priest
    Maria on Ask a Priest
    B on Ask a Priest
    Believer on Ask a Priest

Prophetic Witness No Matter What the Cost

Jeremiah 20:10-13, taken alone, might make us think that the prophet Jeremiah has something of a persecution complex; however, the oppression he feels is real. No sooner had he warned the people of a coming judgment from the Lord, because of their disobedience and neglect of God, the priest Pashhur had him arrested and scourged.

Upon his release from the stocks, he is compelled by his mission to continue his prophecy. He gives the credit for his persistence against mockery and abuse, not to his own fortitude and strength, but to the Lord whose message “becomes like fire burning in my heart.” The phrase, “Terror on every side,” reiterates that Pashhur and the people who have rejected his message will share the fate of doomed Jerusalem. Jeremiah contrasts the betrayal of his friends with the steadfastness of God. God’s prerogatives will not be circumvented.

Psalm 69 is another testimonial in just how far the love of God might take us. “For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face. I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons, because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me” (Psalm 69:8-9). God comes first and last. This should be a sentiment for us all. However, there are many temptations to such a courageous stand. The greatest of these is our desire for the acceptance of others, especially of family and friends. Jews saw their fellowship with one another and the intimacy of their families as central to their lives. However, the Scriptures counsel us all that the most important relationship is with God. If this fundamental association is compromised, then all the rest becomes a sham and we invite destruction. This is still very much the case. Peer pressure or the false prophets of popular media often sway young people. The rest of us sometimes surrender our good standing with God behind small deceits and the disproportionate attraction to material things and comfort. Toleration and peace can become a sham if behind them there is a disregard for the poor and the dignity of human life.

Are we prophets like Jeremiah or priests like Pashhur? Do we seek to silence the voice of the prophets among us? Such questions we must ask ourselves. Several years ago, a priest friend of mine in Georgia decided that he was going to integrate his church instead of operating two facilities, one for whites and the other for blacks. When he tried to do so, the collection plummeted, threatening phone calls rang at all hours, and letters poured into the chancery office. The situation became so dangerous that he was reassigned to a teaching post in another diocese. The experience wounded him deeply and yet he knew it was the right thing and what God wanted. I know a loving nurse who was harassed and finally lost her position in a teaching hospital because she refused to assist in abortions. She knew she had no other choice as a Catholic and as a true believer in Jesus; and yet, it cost her what she most wanted out of life. Many more stories about the prophets in our midst could be told. Will we add our own stories to theirs? Will we see something of our story in Jesus Christ who embraced the Cross to save us despite the mockery of our sins and the scourging of our infidelity?

Romans 5:12-15 draws to our attention precisely this: that through one man (Adam) sin and death entered the world while through another, Christ (the new Adam), grace and life. Jeremiah and all the Old Testament prophets could warn their people and even suffer at their hands for them; however, unlike Jesus, they could not utterly redeem them. The ancient prophecy, repeated time and time again, is fulfilled in Christ. “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” (Jeremiah 20:13).

Look at Matthew 10:26-33, Jesus admonishes his disciples to follow his example and that of the ancient prophets. He tells us not to be afraid. “Do not let men intimidate you.” He promises that whoever avows him before others, his Father will claim in heaven. What more could we want? And yet, so often we allow the problems and the pressures of the day to master us.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

Courageous on Behalf of the Gospel

Jesus revealed himself publicly in the synagogue as the promised messiah. Although initially pleased with his learned exhortations, they quickly begin to question his authority (Luke 4:21-30). Those who knew him as a child or knew his family begin to gossip about him. Hidden in these words is their disbelief that the promised one could possibly be one from their own midst, and a poor man at that! Their acceptance of him swiftly soured into rejection. They no longer wanted to hear what he had to say.

Sometimes we as Catholic Christians, making manifest the same Christ, our Savior, will discover similar rejection and even embarrassment. Speaking the words of God will be difficult, not only because we want to be accepted, but because of how they might touch others. Like medicine, the healing of our Lord comes in a package that may include more preliminary pain before any true healing can take place. The presence of Jesus among his own people would work this way. Some would have to earnestly struggle with his message and presence. For most of his disciples, witnessing for the Master would also cost them their mortal lives; however, in return they would receive everlasting life.

I mention this because there is much about God’s truths that can make us uneasy. God tells us, “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” (see Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19). Most of us were anointed at baptism with the holy chrism as Christian prophets. As children, the challenge afterwards was to be nurtured in the faith by our parents. Later, we were to proclaim it to others as adults. I wonder if we always do that, myself included? It is so easy to get comfortable and to allow others to do all the work of evangelization or Christian witness. However, what would become of a world filled with people so poorly motivated? I shudder to imagine.

The particular wording in Jeremiah is reminiscent of other passages which deal with God calling us, even before we saw the light of day. In the New Testament, the most famous is the one in which the prophet John the Baptist leaps with joy in his mother’s womb when he is near to his Savior still hidden deep inside Mary’s flesh. From the very beginning, each and every one of us is called.

Annually, many citizens of this land march on Washington for the sake of the unborn, a very troubling issue to be sure. Those children who for one reason or another are not wanted, have from the very beginning, been called by God to fellowship with him. Those young women who have faced this crisis, and the many that have made agonizing decisions, have also been called by God. The same could be said for those who are often the invisible partners in this tragedy, the men who have become reluctant fathers. All of them need healing. The woman who makes a poor decision, or who was pressured into doing so, needs to realize the wrongness of what happened, so that true repentance and healing might be achieved. The same sense of scrutiny and responsibility also needs to be accepted in the lives of men who are partners in this holocaust. We can be partners in sin or we can be helpers to one another in grace. As for the child, we believe that God desires the salvation of all. If we should abandon the youngest of children, God will not. They are alive. This realization can be the hardest of all for those who have suffered this dilemma. They are alive. Adopted by the loving arm of the Church; touched by the same love which embraced the children killed by Herod in Christ’s stead; they are alive. As such, they pray for their parents and God willing, wait until we are all rejoined together in Paradise.

Our faith tells us that all are called. No life is to be wasted. All life is precious. 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 tells us that faith, hope, and love are everlasting. When it comes to the truths of our faith or the moral values which the Gospel upholds, we need to be courageous. Do we attend Mass every Sunday in order to worship God in the community? Do we pray a few minutes every day? Do we try to be charitable and peaceful? Do we stand up for our beliefs and for our Church when they are mocked or ridiculed? Do we attempt to correct those in error? Do we use or waste the great gift of life with which God and our parents gave us?

In every new life and in ever old life made new by Christ’s forgiveness, hope is born. What might we become? With God, the possibilities are endless. What are our hopes for each other? A time when children can go to school and play safely? A world that does not throw the precious gift of creation back into God’s face? A future wherein we all meet the goals set for us by God, growing in wisdom and grace, just as Christ once did? We work to achieve these hopes, knowing that in God’s will, all things come in his own good time. We wait in hope, knowing that God calls every one of us. One day the hopes of believers will be realized.

When this happens, it will be because God loved us and loved us first. We exist because of love, the love of God and the love of a man and woman. We live for love; if you do not believe this just try to exist without it. Maybe it all boils down to our responding with the same kind of trusting love with which Christ accepted the Father’s will in his life? Of all visible creation, it is only the human being who can respond back to God in prayer and a life of love.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.