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Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19
Psalm 74:1B-2, 3-5, 6-7, 20-21
Matthew 8:5-17
In Lamentation all hell breaks loose in Israel.
The Psalmist says, the faithful wonder why.
And in the Gospel, Jesus encounters the compassionate Centurion.
As in Dante's journey toward Paradise, we enter today's readings with Jeremiah's searing
vision of vast destruction to prepare us to move on. Similarly, Dante's Inferno is not a
place to linger in pity as much as it is a place to learn how to avoid the inevitable curses
of roads poorly chosen--of the dangers of "false and specious visions" of the "prophets"
of worldly triumph. The flaw in the "prophet's" message was a failure to "lay bare your
guilt." Likely, that guilt included an exaggerated presumption that the worldly successes
of the "kings and princes," and all who were led by them, were earned, and therefore,
deserved. They had stopped seeing their lives as gifts to be shared, and forged ahead
trying to forestall disaster by trusting in fortresses and granaries to protect what they had
acquired. This is directly counter to a thread throughout scripture that hoarding leads to
communal destruction. The fortresses are overrun and the treasure plundered. The result
is a catastrophe where the children in the street are starving. Both in reality and meta-
phor, those children are the future of that society, and, as in Inferno, it is a future with a
terrifying landscape.
In every age there are competing "prophets" trying to spin visions for paths of personal
and corporate contentment. Some voices point us to a distant valley where, for a price,
the grass is lush and the streams run clear. Others warn of dire enemies crawling in at-
tack over nearby ridges. There are some many positions staked out that someone can
always claim to have correctly foreseen the future. Most, even when wrong, can claim
some phantom victory for having prepared us in a way that, at least, we avoided some
harsher fate. The Chicken Little games are endless.
The psalmist and Jeremiah echo each other's lament, trying to make sense of the col-
lapse of the worldly greatness of Israel. The trappings of success--even within the
grandly appointed sacred temple--are ripped away in savage mayhem. Beginning with