The Young Man at the Tomb Holding Fast to Each Other Amen to What We Are The Lord, Our Justice Claiming Our True Name What We Expect The Comma Keeping the Demons Quiet The Dove in the Heavens Thankfulness and Generosity Speaking to Jesus A Promise to Simeon and Us A Sign for You The Voice in the Wilderness How Annunciations Work The Least, the Lost, and the Last Waiting for Christ’s Return Attire for the Kingdom The Cross in a Violent World Come to the Banquet Today Anointing of the Sick Finding the Eternal Change and Continuity Paying Attention The First and the Last Using Bad Consequences How to Talk to God Ready to Forgive Facing the Serpent Priority and Mutuality Three Meals a Day Searching for Pearls The Power of Service Why Walk on Water? 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The Problem with Sparrows Eternal Creation Patient Vigilance Buried Treasure Thinking Again Where You Do Not Want to Go The Courage to Speak Humility and Truth Do Something Good Knowing the Song Acting Against Evil God Will Come What We Can Say Senseless Violence Invitation as a Threat What Belongs to God Two Commands, Side by Side Burdens We May Not See Foolish or Wise Accepting the Consequences Serving the Least Watching for Jesus Camels and Gnats Becoming Smaller The Christmas Barber The Ring of the Kings The Freedom and Faith of John the Baptist Zebedee The Opioid Crisis Approaching, Grasping, Lifting Up What God Intends The Battle with Satan Following Elijah and Moses Standing in Truth A God of Love or Condemnation When Life Turns Not Fully Prepared The Wounds We Carry Selling Onions Son of Encouragement To Love as God Loves Engagement with the World Doubting Disciples Sabbath Avoiding the Diabolical Persistent Hope Speaking the Word Within Us “And Also With You” Capital Punishment I Will Go On Three Wise Choices Will You Also Leave? 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How to Talk to God

August 31, 2014 click on left end of black bar to play-pause

August 31, 2014
Jeremiah 20:7-9; Matthew 16:21-27
Fr. George Smiga

What is today’s first reading doing in the Bible? Isn’t the Bible the place where God is to be praised, where God’s glory is to be extolled, where hope abounds? But today’s first reading from the prophet Jeremiah is without hope. Rather than God being praised, God is attacked. Jeremiah says that he has been deceived by God, that he has been duped. Rather than giving Jeremiah support, God has made Jeremiah’s life a misery. Jeremiah’s negative and violent words might shock us, but they can also instruct us. Jeremiah is telling us that when we pray, when we speak to God, we must speak honestly. We must come before the Lord ready to say what we really think and what we really feel.

Jeremiah became a prophet early in his life. We have every reason to believe that he thought being chosen was an honor and that he expected that people would respect him for being God’s messenger. But the words that God gave Jeremiah to speak were hard words, words of destruction and judgment. People rejected Jeremiah and his message. They attacked him, beat him, and threw him into prison. Jeremiah began to see that his life was not turning out as he expected. Rather than being respected, he was being derided. This is why he complains to the Lord. This is why he says that he has been tricked. Misery and suffering were not what he signed up for. God had duped him.

Jeremiah is a model for us when we find ourselves in painful places in which we never thought we would be: when our marriage falls apart, when our health deteriorates, when the people we trusted hurt us, when advancing age takes away one ability after another. When we find ourselves in circumstances that we never bargained for, Jeremiah tells us that we have the right to complain. We have the right to tell God, “I’m not happy. This stinks! You have not treated me fairly.” To say this in another way, when we are in pain, being honest is more important than being polite. Telling God that we are disappointed, that we are angry, is not a sign of disrespect. Rather it shows that we are taking our relationship with God seriously, seriously enough to come before God as we really are, seriously enough to challenge God to save us.

Praying with this kind of honesty creates new possibilities. When we put our pain and loss on the table, when we get our anger off our chest, it opens the way for us to listen to what God may say in response. God’s words may be words of comfort and of peace. But to reach that peace, we must begin with honesty. We must tell the Lord what we really think and feel.

In today’s gospel Jesus says that a disciple must take up the cross and follow him. His words are true enough. All of us at one time or another will find ourselves in painful situations that we did not bargain for. But when we find ourselves in those places, Jeremiah tells us that we have the right to complain. We can confront God with our anger and disappointment. We can challenge God to save us and to take our cross away. To pray this way is to pray as a disciple. Jesus tells us that we must carry our cross. But Jeremiah shows us that we do not have to like it.

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