Friday of the Fifth Week in Lent
(Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42)
In a book about God, theologian Karen Armstrong gives the so-called “new atheists” a sympathetic rejection. Although she thinks they have a point in their critique of fundamentalist interpretations of religion, she finds their own critique of religion simplistic. Armstrong finds it unfortunate that self-proclaimed atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have not dialogued with religious thinkers whose ideas are more mature and deeper than those of the fundamentalists. It may be said that Armstrong finds the new atheists hard of heart for their unwillingness to carry out a true search for truth. In the readings today Jeremiah and Jesus likewise lament the hardness of their adversaries’ positions.
Jeremiah has preached religious and moral reform to the Kingdom of Judah. The people, he would say, have to stop thinking that foreign alliances will save them from the threat of Babylon and to rely on God. Jesus asks the people of Jerusalem, the heirs of those to whom Jeremiah preached, to recognize him as God’s uniquely appointed messenger for all that he has done in God’s name. In both cases, however, the people roundly reject these divine emissaries and even threaten their lives.
We should be wary of the ways some talk about God. People want and should give testimony to their experiences of Him. But they err on the side of enthusiasm when they reduce God to an unmerciful executioner or even to an individual helper greater than themselves. God is holy mystery whose nature we cannot hope to really understand. Some say God is love, and of course He is that. But love does not adequately explain God’s nature any more than we could say that working is our nature because we need to work. What is more important than talking about God is acting like God as demonstrated in Jesus’ life. We should become more compassionate, understanding, and disciplined.