Preach Not Confidence but Conversion
Homily for Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Preached on August 2, 2010 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Jeremiah 28:1-17; Psalm 119:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102; Matthew 14:13-21
The prophet meant well when he preached peace to the priests and the people. It was what they wanted to hear in the house of the Lord. So harsh upon their necks had been the yoke of the king of Babylon and they desired to have it broken (cf. Jer. 28: 2). Great had been their grief for the exiles of Judah and they longed to have them come home (cf. Jer. 28: 4, 6). So when Hananiah spoke of peace and freedom, of broken yokes and returning exiles, the people found the confidence that they had lost after the Babylonians had overthrown their king. They believed the word of this prophet and conspired against Nebuchadnezzar. History will tell us that what followed was a disaster of biblical proportions. Jerusalem was plundered and the temple of the Lord, built by his servant Solomon, was razed to the ground.
The prophet Hananiah meant well when he preached peace to the priests and the people. But, he should have known that a prophet is not supposed to just mean well but rather should serve well the Lord whose word he was sent to preach. Hananiah failed to see that his mission was not to inspire confidence in the people to start a rebellion (cf. Jer. 28:15). That is the business of politics, not of prophecy. The mission of a prophet is not to inspire a false confidence, but rather a true conversion in the people. Still, Hananiah preached rebellion against the Lord instead of reconciliation with the Lord (cf. Jer. 28:16). And because he did, he damned himself and the people to a deadly end (cf. Jer. 28:13-14, 16-17).
There is a warning here for all who dare to preach in the name of the Lord. It is not enough to mean well, to let the people hear whatever they want to hear. That is the business of politics, not of preaching and certainly not of prophecy. But, we live in an age when so many care more to cater to the wiles of men rather than heed the demands of the will of God, when so many are more obsessed in imagining what would Jesus do instead of doing what Jesus had asked us to do. Blinded by personal politics and preaching a gospel of tolerance, Hananiah’s heirs are still trying to inspire a false confidence in people to rebel against God. But, it should not be so for us: this prophetic parish shall preach conversion and invite people to be reconciled with God. That, from of old, has consistently been the prophetic word. And this word brings neither disaster nor damnation, but rather leads us to that promised “future full of hope” (Jer. 29:11).