A nation that regards itself as God's Chosen might be offended by today's passage from Jeremiah. Americans might it take as a rebuke, "This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord." Are we not, as Chesterton said of the United States, "a nation with the soul of a church?"
Catholics need not concern themselves with that; we read this passage as confronting the Church, not any particular country or government. By our prayer we dispose ourselves -- that is, take a position of openness -- to be challenged by these words both personally and communally.
But we are immersed in a secular culture. Their values are hammered into us, or at us, continually. When I watch Wheel of Fortune in the evening, trying to guess the answers ahead of the contestants, I hear the unseen voice shouting, "TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!" as if I should care how much money they win. But I am pleased when the contestant wins the large cash prize, disappointed when she doesn't. I sometimes wonder if the losers won enough to pay for their trip to and from the contest site, although they will certainly prize the video of this program for generations to come.
The entertainment culture hammers us with alien values: money, beauty, popularity, success, power, economy and so forth. All of which have their place but cannot be very important in God's sight. They are poor standards by which to judge a human being.
Our God esteems the worth and integrity of each human being; the Holy Spirit invites and gathers us into fellowship both to grieve our sins and to adore God's Son.
During this penitential season, when we hear, "Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech." we must receive this scolding with an open heart, in the same spirit as the Crucified Lord who found direction and identity in the words of Isaiah: