Year B: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 31: 7-9
As a prophet, Jeremiah has something of a bad name - being seen primarily as a prophet of gloom. This was largely because he had been entrusted with the prophecies concerning the collapse of Israel and subsequent Exile in Babylon.
However, today’s reading shows that Jeremiah saw beyond the Exile to the restoration of the people to their homeland. The homecoming is triumphant. Jeremiah sees the Lord bringing back the faithful in a great company.
However, the people who make up that company are not the great and the good - or a great military force marching proudly to reclaim lost territory. The company is made up the most vulnerable of people: the blind, the lame, women with children and even women in labour. Those who were dragged in tears from their homes will be guided back with utmost tenderness - led to water and places of rest along paths that will not cause even the blind and lame to stumble.
This is a beautiful image - and one which resonates with exiles and refugees today. They are among the most vulnerable of people - usually the ones least able to defend or support themselves. They lack power to change their situation and feel cast onto the winds of fortune which blow where they will.
For them, exile in however a hospitable land feels like exile: they remain strangers in an alien land. The prospect of a homecoming speaks deeply to their condition - not as a glorious victory but as cause for deep joy. To return to their own soil and to rebuild shattered lives in peace is what they yearn for.
It is good at times to be reminded that Scripture speaks of people like those in today’s world. The words expressed in Scripture resonate through the centuries, giving voice to the suffering and yearning of the poor - and the affirmation that the Lord hears that cry and will act to gather his people and bring them home.
What does it mean for me?
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