A life lived in darkness and despair, always stuck in the past of remembered injuries and unrequited dreams, is no life at all.
This is a welcome message to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. It comes to them in the form of a letter, a scroll, sent to them by the prophet Jeremiah. He gives them counsel that though they are now in exile, their future will be bright. He tells them that while they are now in exile, they should not be down in spirit, indeed, they should build houses, plant gardens and eat their fruits, get married, have children, give them to husbands and wives so that they too may have children and add to the ranks of the Chosen People. You see, all of this advice is an exhortation to live out of faith and hope, not out of the darkness of despair. Yes, times are difficult, but God has not abandoned them. He has plans and he will carry those plans out to their fullest.
This message is good news for us too. For we know that we too are in exile, far from our home in Paradise. We know, too, that God’s fidelity extends to us. Unlike the Babylonian exiles, though, we have seen the Savior. He has come and fulfilled his promise of mercy to us. We too are called to live out of faith and hope, just as the Jews exiled in Babylon were. It is the only way to live, really. A life lived in darkness and despair, always stuck in the past of remembered injuries and unrequited dreams, is no life at all. But a life lived in faith and hope is able to look forward with hope, even in the midst of present suffering. To live in this world with all of its flaws and scars and yet be able to see the good and the beautiful more often than not, is a life worth living. Indeed, it is a life well lived. This is the way that a Christian desires to live in the world. We want to be people who see the good news in others, rather than always seeking the bad news in them. We want to treat others as we would have others treat us. We desire in the depths of our being to answer Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he loved us. We wish to meet the terrors of the world with courage and faith and hope, rather than with fear, hatred and pride. We are a people who have been redeemed from the slavery of sin and death. We are a people called to life eternal. We have seen God’s plans fulfilled in Jesus Christ and we understand ourselves as called to follow in his footsteps. We are to make his plans visible to this world through our actions of love and forgiveness.
Though we still wander in exile from our original home, we know that it awaits those who “The Lord has raised up [as] prophets here in Babylon.” (verse 15, paraphrased) God has come among us. He is still gathering us from the places where we have been scattered to and is bringing us back to the place from whence we were exiled after the fall. Listen, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one. Let us heed our God with all of our hearts, our minds, our souls. God, give us ears to hear. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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