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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary time

September 3, 2023

Today’s Invitation

Today, we invite you to explore the experiences of the prophets through Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s examination of Jeremiah; engage Catholic Social Teaching’s fraught relationship with self-care; and embody the struggles of Jeremiah and the self with the help of Heschel and a practice of true self care.

Commentary by Leia Tijou

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1

Jeremiah 20:7-9

You duped me, YHWH, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All day, I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
“Violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the Most High has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.
I say to myself, “I will not mention YHWH,
nor will I speak in YHWH’s name any more.”
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in,
I cannot endure it.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 63

Response: My soul thirsts for You, O God.

O God, You are my God whom I seek, / for You my flesh pines and my soul thirsts.
Like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R: My soul thirsts for You, O God.

Thus have I gazed toward You in the sanctuary / to see Your power and Your glory.
For Your kindness is a greater good than life; / my lips will glorify You.
R: My soul thirsts for You, O God.

Thus will I bless You while I live; / lifting up my hands,
I will call upon Your Name.
As with the riches of a banquet will my soul be satisfied,
And with exultant lips my mouth will praise You.
R: My soul thirsts for You, O God.

That You are my help,/ and in the shadow of Your wings I will shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to You; / Your right hand upholds me.
R: My soul thirsts for You, O God.

Reading 2

Romans 12:1-2

Sisters and brothers,
I beg you through the mercy of God
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God—
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age,
but be transformed by the renewal of your minds,
so that you may judge what God’s will is —
what is good, pleasing and perfect.


Matthew 16:21-27

From that time on,
Jesus began to explain to the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem,
to suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and religious scholars,
and that he must be killed, and on the third day raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
“Never, Rabbi!” he said.
“This will never happen to you!”

Jesus turned to Peter and said,
“Get yourself behind me, you Satan!
You are trying to make me stumble and fall.
You are setting your mind not on the things of God,
but on the things of mortals.”

Then Jesus said to the disciples,
“If you wish to come after me, you must deny your very selves,
take up the instrument of your own death
and begin to follow in my footsteps.
“If you would save your life, you will lose it;
but if you would lose your life for my sake, you will find it.
What profit would you show if you gained the whole world
but lost yourself?
What can you offer in exchange for your very self?

“The Promised One will come in the glory of Abba God
accompanied by the angels, and will repay all according to their conduct.”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



Human Emotion and Prophetic Duty

The prophets are an abstraction; an amorphous cluster of names whose voices are seldom heard except in our lectionaries, or when channeled through the lips of Jesus. These encounters have stripped the prophets of their contexts and distorted them in a supersessionist (for definition, see paragraph 17) effort to validate the Jesus story as a fulfillment and replacement for the Hebrew Bible. This fixation on revelation-as-corroboration has robbed these people of their humanity and reduced them to mere character witnesses.

In his seminal work, The Prophets, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel liberates these figures from the footnotes of our study bibles, and delves deeply into their prophetic consciousness to explore the struggle between human emotion and prophetic duty. Heschel’s analysis of Jeremiah 20:7-9 offers a meaningful glimpse into the prophet’s emotional landscape, one that should resonate deeply with those who ‘hunger and thirst for justice.’

The first portion of verse seven has traditionally been translated as: “You have deceived me, O Lord, and I was deceived,” but a careful look at the Hebrew reveals a far more disturbing interpretation. The verb Jeremiah first utilizes is the Hebrew word pathah, and while it can be understood as ‘deceived’ or ‘duped,’ Heschel points out that the term is used “in the special sense of wrongfully inducing a woman to consent to prenuptial intercourse…denot[ing] seduction or enticement.”

Similarly, in the latter half of the verse the prophet states in Hebrew “chazaqtani” – typically rendered as “you are stronger than I.” Again, Heschel argues that this verb – chazaq – “denotes the violent forcing of a woman to submit to extranuptial intercourse, which is thus performed against her will…denot[ing] rape…The words used by Jeremiah to describe the impact of God upon his life are identical with the terms for seduction and rape in the legal terminology of the bible” (144).

Explaining Jeremiah 20:7 with this meaning: “You have seduced me, O Lord, and I was seduced; you raped me and you have overpowered me.” Here, Jeremiah is likening himself to the virgin who has been seduced, placing God in the role of the assailant who leverages brute force to impose his will. These terms, however, “used in juxtaposition forcefully convey the complexity of the divine-human relationship…and betrays an ambivalence in the prophet’s understanding of his own experience:…a feeling of being enticed, of acquiescence or willing surrender…and a sense of being ravished or carried away by violence, of yielding to overpowering force against one’s own will” (145). In his interpretation of the ninth verse, Heschel states: “The prophet was filled with passion which demanded release; if he tried to contain it, its flame burned within him like a fever. Jeremiah could not have felt it as a passion breathed into him by God. Biblical thought…regards every outburst of fire from God…as a destructive force” (151).

There is a simpler way to describe what the prophet is feeling – guilt. Here, Jeremiah expresses the feeling of profound guilt for those times he has tried to contain the will of the divine – or, perhaps, for trying to rest or walk away from it – and the resulting compulsion to carry on despite public rejection and personal misery. Ultimately, “he is unable to discard the divine burden, unable to disengage himself from the divine pathos” (151).

If you’re anything like me, you’ve read Heschel’s description of Jeremiah’s inner world with your jaw dropped in shock – because, my God, how relatable! How many of us who hunger and thirst for justice have felt this hellish melange of emotion: the initial thrill of hearing the call and discovering our vocation, the righteous anger that fueled us for so long, the inevitable exhaustion and cynicism of total burn out, the crushing sense of guilt we feel everytime we feel the need to rest or secretly question “wouldn’t my life be easier if I didn’t do this?” only to end with the understanding that you can no longer un-know what you know and therefore must carry on. Jeremiah’s lamentation lets us know that we are not alone in our fight.

Commentary by Leia Tijou

Leia Tijou is a writer, biblical scholar and human rights activist living in New York. She graduated with her Masters degree in Social Ethics and Biblical Studies in 2021 from Union Theological Seminary, and is currently working for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

I want to speak about the crossroads of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and self-care. There is a fundamental problem with the way we are interpreting CST; namely that we are operating within the misinterpretation that it only focuses outward, never applying to our own lives. While it is true that these principles are meant to curtail the selfishness that is latent within us, we have applied them in such a way as to become martyrs in our pursuit of justice. Somewhere along the way – between fighting for the poor and caring for creation – we’ve forgotten that we, too, are God’s creation. We have stopped caring for ourselves and are now wailing our own versions of Jeremiah’s lament. We have contextualized our own suffering as ‘not as bad’ as others’ sufferings, and have neglected ourselves to the point where many of us are in a state of crisis.

‘Self-care’ is the zeitgeist of the COVID era, but like all buzzwords, fads and trends it has lost all meaning and become a perversion of its original meaning. Self-care is not getting 18 hours of sleep only after you’ve made yourself sick and exhausted. It is not a sole good meal after you’ve starved your body of required nutrients. It’s not seeking community only in the depths of your loneliness or simply looking for someone to agree with you. It’s not restoring to your spiritual practice only when you’re at rock bottom and need just one more push to cross the finish line. It is not enjoying nature as you walk or drive from point A to point B. It’s not getting your nails done, laying in bed on your phone all day, sex for release, a vacation that equates to running away, or any number of last second resorts we call self care in the wild hope that it will restore us to full, complete humanity. This is not self care, this is an emergency room crash cart. It is nothing more than the bare essentials required to make sure we don’t die.

Real self care is a daily, sustained act of radical self love. It is the constant nourishment of body, mind, and spirit which is necessary for our full humanity. It is good sleep, nourishing food, and exercise – but equally as much creative expression, intimacy with your community, processing complex emotions, the engagement of those things that bring us joy, as well as the grounding of ourselves in a rich spiritual practice. We must stop feeling like Jeremiah – guilty for needing rest and boundaries – and pushing through our exhaustion because we recognize that we’ve been called. Righteous anger is not enough to sustain us – and we cannot fight for justice if we are exhausted, cynical, apathetic or dead.


A Contemplative Exercise

Choose a quiet space where you will be undisturbed.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply, feeling the connection between your body and the ground

beneath you.


Scan your body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes, paying close attention to

each part of your body and any sensations you may notice. When you encounter tensions or

discomfort exhale deeply, and imagine the tension leaving your body in the form of a dark

colored cloud. Continue breathing until the clouds become light.


When you are ready, open your eyes and take out a journal. Reflect on the following questions. Remember, there is no right/wrong answer nor is there a time/page limit.

  1. What does self-care mean to you?
  2. In which areas of your life – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – do you need to shore-up your self care practice?
  3. What specific self-care practices would nourish you in these areas?
  4. What obstacles to self-care have you experienced in the past?
  5. In what ways can you overcome these obstacles?
  6. Create for yourself a self-care plan based on these reflections.
  7. What are the specific and realistic daily practices that you must perform in order to fulfill them?

Remember, radical self-care is an ongoing practice, and it is essential to be kind and patient with yourself as you embark on this journey of self-nurturing and growth. Regularly revisit your self- care plan, adjust it as needed, and prioritize your well-being to lead a balanced and fulfilling life.

A Witness

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Jewish scholar and theologian whose published works and involvement with the Civil Rights Movement made him a public figure.

Having escaped the Holocaust (most of his family was killed), he became a professor at Jewish Theological Union in New York. His influence outside Judaism is due to his interreligious impulses that did not claim religious experience for one tradition alone. He was influential in the Second Vatican Council, serving as a Jewish representative, and allied with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement. 

Heschel has left an enormous legacy in theological and philosophical thinking of the 20th century, as an advocate of his tradition’s deep grounding in narratives of justice and the human condition.