The Readings today show two prophets: Jeremiah and John the Baptist. Both said things that leaders at that time did not like. Jeremiah spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem while John the Baptist spoke against Herod’s adultery with his sister-in-law. Because the leaders did not like what they heard, they persecuted both prophets and John the Baptist was even murdered.
The question is: if the Prophets spoke the Truth of God, why would people not listen to them? Alphonsus Liguori, whom we celebrate today, says The devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open: he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labors to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. The blindness to sin comes gradually, first a little compromise here, getting a little bigger, and soon, we will not realize that we have compromised ourselves. This is how evil works and how those who opposed the two prophets did not see what they were doing is evil. They were blinded by the malice of their sins.
Despite the persecution toward them, both Jeremiah and John the Baptist trust God is in charge. We see this in Jeremiah’s response to his persecutors: here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. This shows his complete trust in God who will eventually make right what is wrongly done, and who will give justice. The Psalm echos the confidence of the persecuted Prophets: let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
Even when we are persecuted for speaking the truth, we persevere and hold on to the Lord, believing he will eventually deliver us. John the Baptist faltered towards the end of his life when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the One to come. It is normal to feel abandoned when we are persecuted. But the important thing is to know who we trust.
Alphonsus Liguori was a bishop and is a doctor of the Church. He founded the order of the Redemptorist. He presented God’s Truth in simplicity so people will understand. But through it all, he warned people to devote their lives to Jesus. He also warned people of the need to repent: In the Great deluge, in the days of Noah, nearly all mankind perished, eight persons alone being saved in the Ark. In our days a deluge, not of water but of sins, continually inundates the earth, and out of this deluge very few escape. Scarcely anyone is saved. There is a great flood of sin today. Killing the child in a mother’s womb is acceptable and so is killing the elderly and vulnerable. Sexual abuse by those in authority is now acceptable. And marriage has been redefined. This deluge of sin is coming and Scarcely anyone is saved. Such Truth must be spoken. Pray that God will send prophets who will boldly proclaim the Truth of God even at the cost of their lives.
Lord, send more prophets to us who will proclaim what they see from you. Give us true shepherds who will lead us to you, warning us of sin and showing us the way to holiness. St Alphonsus, pray that we may not be blinded to our sins so we can live for the glory of God. Pray also that we may be true prophets who show people God’s Truth whatever the cost.