“There’s a sucker born every minute!” [David Hannum]  Have you ever been duped? If you have, chances are you may have felt embarrassed, even angered. No one likes to be taken advantage of.  All of today’s Sacred Scripture, from the prophet Jeremiah, Psalm 63, St. Paul and the Gospel of Matthew, portrays another side to being duped. Like most prophets of the Old Testament, Jeremiah was despised for admonishing Israel for her infidelity to Yahweh.  Jeremiah exposed the idolatrous behavior of the children of Israel and paid a steep price:  he was exiled into pagan Egypt and murdered by his own countrymen. Today’s reading from the prophet however, is a window into the interior life of a soul consumed in the fire of love of the Lord!  Being duped in this manner means that the power of God’s spirit burns so ardently in the heart that the soul cannot but relinquish itself freely to the point of exhaustion.  Have you ever loved someone to the point of exhaustion?  Have you ever loved the Lord to the point of exhaustion? The Prophet Jeremiah’s exhortation is reflected in Psalm 63:  “O God, you are my God—for you I long!  For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, like a land parched, lifeless, and without water.” [Ps 63:2]  This psalm is prayed during Morning Prayer on feasts and solemnities celebrated during the Church’s liturgical year.  The psalm expounds upon the intimate relationship between God and the worshipper.  The Song of Songs best reflects the desire of union with God:  For love is stronger than death.”  St. Paul reminds us that we should not conform ourselves to the things of this world, but to give ourselves totally to God. Have you ever come to Mass feeling empty and leave empty?  What or whom have you blamed it on?  What’s the cause of your emptiness you may ask? As Catholics, our challenge is to place God alone and first in our lives.  However, things get in the way!  What things? You name it!  Sports, shopping, television, movies, i.e., all the distractions of life that prevent us from communion with God.  St. Augustine felt the same way when his faith was challenged and he expressed it in one of the most quoted verses from The ConfessionsOur hearts are restless until they rest in Thee!” The Gospel today reminds us that the ultimate challenge in following Christ is denying ourselves. This is easy to do during the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent when we are encouraged to perform acts of penance, prayer and charity; but the reality is that we should strive to always do these things for love of God.  People so often pray for peace.  Remember that real peace can only come when we yearn for the love of the Lord and allow His love to enter into our hearts. Let us strive to be like Jeremiah the prophet.  Invite the Lord to possess your heart. That’s a heartache that we can all benefit from.  Make no mistake.  Do not allow yourself to be duped. Like the bumper sticker says:  “No Christ.  No peace.”  Got Christ?  Got peace!

In Christ, Fr. Frank