A few weeks ago, I listened to a sermon by a Roman Catholic priest, Michael Renninger. He started off by telling of the sermon he had originally planned to give. He was focusing on a passage from Jeremiah that begins with a denunciation: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture.’ It continues by saying since these shepherds have not attended to God’s people, God will attend to them for their evil deeds. The priest read those words and had come up with a “humdinger” of a sermon that would decry every politician who was advocating sinful policies (not by name, but everyone would know who he was referring to). He would denounce public policies that went against his beliefs. He might even denounce some of the ideas he had heard from his parishioners. He said that as he was typing the sermon he told himself this would give him a chance to vent the anger he felt about the way things were going in the world.
Then God intervened, and called him to look at the last part of the reading from Jeremiah in which God says, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” Then God promises to “raise up for David, a righteous Branch… In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.” This of course is a promise of Jesus, the Messiah. The full import of the passage was not that God would punish the evildoers, but that God cared for his people. Then when he looked at the Epistle lesson, in a few verses God had promised three times to bring peace through Jesus' presence in the believer’s lives. In the Gospel lesson, the crowds were anxious to know where Jesus was, and how they could quickly come closer to Him.
Father Renninger said he realized that his initial desire to call down God’s wrath came more from his watching the news and letting his anger grow, than from reading the scriptures, and listening to God. It came from his desire to make the world listen to him, instead of bringing the world to hear God. It came more from his desire to be in control than trying to find out where Jesus was working in the world, and how he and others could Join Jesus there. As he put it he had spent his time “angering” not praying. He had chosen just the verses of scripture that matched his mood and his feelings rather than listening to the whole of the scripture lessons. As he put it, he was behaving link an atheist, in thinking all problems need human solutions, rather than letting God take control.
This sermon hit home with me. How often have I spent my time worrying about how sinful people were, and how people could be so stupid as to listen to the lies of politicians, when instead I should have been praying for those people who were so deluded, as well as for those who were “as sane as I am” (i.e. the people who agree with me). Father Renninger pointed out a truth that I know full well: the answer to all of the problems in the world is to seek Jesus first, and to allow Him to work in my life and show me where I can work as He directs, or to leave the problems of the world with Him to work as He wills. We are not called to solve the problems of the world ourselves. We are called to “let go and let God.”
I have written before about how much anger and ill will seems to be prevailing in the world. Much of this is a reaction to our fears about the future. The answer of course is to dwell in the peace of Christ. We need to acknowledge that God is in control, even if the news seems to tell us the world is totally out of control. We need to trust and to listen so that when we do seek to address problems, it is with God’s solutions not our own. And we need to acknowledge that God does not call on us to be involved in every problem. That is God’s business not ours.
Via con Christos,