Jeremiah 7:1-7 / Luke 4:38-44
There are those today who are disheartened by those brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith who have departed from the sacramental life of the Church and her worship, and may even have begun to drift away from the faith itself. For them, the point is clear. If one asserts that Jesus Christ is Lord, if one claims to hold to the Catholic faith, then no amount of disappointment in the behavior of her members or tepidness in her pastors can justify walking away. If Jesus Christ is Lord, the argument goes, then he is in his Church.
Others are disheartened by the Church herself, seeing either with sadness or with cynicism the failure of the Christian people to uphold in a clear and unambiguous way the dignity of all human persons. For them, the support of professed Catholics for the destruction of unborn life, for unreasoned refusal to attend to the scientific study of global climate change, for the removal of those public means of feeding the poor and caring for the abused, especially of children, for initiating and sustaining armed conflict between nations, and much more unsays whatever these same Christians assert in the proclamation of the Gospel. If Jesus Christ is Lord, so the argument goes, then he could not possibly be present in the Church.
To all of these, the Church puts before us the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was faced with a difficult work as a prophet, namely, to call the people of Judah back to fidelity and trust in God, to affirm them that God was with them and would defend them, while at the same time warning them against vain presumption, against presuming that the Lord is necessarily in his Temple, and thus one need not worry about the righteousness which the Lord demands in his Law, the righteousness which was the proper and necessary foundation for the Lord's choosing to dwell with his people. To abandon God because his people had strayed from their ways would be foolish, but so, too, would it be folly to presume that God would remain in his Temple even when his people had failed to uphold justice in settling disputed between neighbors, had oppressed the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow, had shed innocent blood, and had departed from the worship of the true God.
To leave the Church, to follow strange gods is, as Jeremiah warns us, only to our own hurt. Yet, to remain within the Church is to affirm social justice, to uphold right relationship with our neighbor, to show special concern, justice, and support for the weak, defenseless, and disadvantaged, to defend and protect the innocent and all those who are targets of violence and hatred for whatever reason or cause. There is no right worship, no giving proper adoration to the Lord Jesus Christ where there is no active, positive, material defense and promotion of the good of our neighbor, and most especially the good of the poor. God may not leave his Temple, of course, as it is nothing other than his own Body of which he is the Head. We, however, may well cut ourselves off from that same body through our hardness of heart to our brothers and sisters, even while all the while speaking pious words.
The Lord is the hope of his people, and his wills his Church to be the effective sign of that love and that justice for all the world to see. This is the goal of our Lenten fasting, our Lenten prayer, and our Lenten almsgiving, to be more and more like our Lord, of whom the Psalmist said: The eyes of all hope in Thee, O Lord; and Thou givest them meat in due season. Thou openest Thy hand, and fillest every living creature with blessing.