Prepared by Bro. Antony Dynish OFM Cap
Jeremiah meaning יִרְמְיָה) “Yahweh Exalts”) is one of the major prophets of the Old Testament in the Bible. Jeremiah was called by Yahweh to give prophesy of Jerusalem’s destruction that would occur by invaders from the North. The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry about one year after Josiah, king of Judah, had turned the nation toward repentance from the widespread idolatrous practices of his father and grandfather. Jeremiah’s sole purpose was to reveal the sins of the people and explain the reason for the impending disaster (destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity). It has been interpreted that Jeremiah “spiritualized and individualized religion and insisted upon the primacy of the individual’s relationship with God.”
Among the biblical prophets, the personality and the ministry of Jeremiah, who lived at a time of great crisis in the history of Israel, fascinate all the people. “The prophet Jeremiah is a paradoxical figure. He cares deeply for his people, identifies with their suffering and repeatedly calls them to repentance. However he also rails against their sin and issues threats of destruction.” Jeremiah’s greatness consists in this that he not only proclaimed the message, but also embodied the very message in his own life, thus identifying the medium and the message in a profound way. In the words of Gerhard Von Rad, “The prophetic office assumed by Jeremiah was far greater in its range and the depth than that of any of its predecessors.”
His life and mission not only attracts modern man but challenges him because of its transforming message. For him, witnessing life is more important than all political maneuvers, public demonstrations and religious rituals. At time when Kings, prophets, priests and sages sided with a corrupt polity and threatened with death any opposite view, Jeremiah stood alone proclaiming the word of God without adulterating it in spite of the painful consequences. He proclaimed the truth, practiced it in his own life, and thus identified himself with the message. Witnessing means living what we preach. Witnessing means readiness to die for the cause of the values that we upheld. This is what Jeremiah did in that most confusing and turbulent period in the history of Israel.
The prophetic tradition has always envisaged the role of a beacon for its people. But the beacon has become tarnished and its brilliance diminished due to the constant internal bickering, jurisdictional and issues of rites and their territories. The Indian Church is slowly losing its freedom to stand by the poor and the marginalized because of its commitment and concern to safeguard the interests of its institutions. To fulfill the prophetic roles in society the guidelines of the social teaching of the Church should be reinterpreted and used in new ministries in social situations. A historical analysis of the Church makes it clear that very often it has been more concerned with the administrative matters than the pastoral needs of the people. Often people, their concerns and needs, particularly at the grass root level are not primary concern of the authorities. In the areas of pastoral care, lay participation, dialogue, inculturation, social role of the Church and so on, though things are being done there seems to be great lethargy in the execution. Therefore there is indeed an urgent call for changing the situation in India by all the religious as they have received the prophetic call. Through this paper I would like to present the prophetic challenges we face in the Indian context relating with the mission of prophet Jeremiah. I would also like to throw some beacon from the life of Jeremiah to understand the stand that the Indian Church ministers should take in such contexts.
THE CALL AND MISSION OF JEREMIAH
1.1. Social and religious background of Jeremiah’s prophesying
Jeremiah was born in the village of Anathoth, near Jerusalem around the year 650BCE. At that time the dominant world power was Assyria. Politics and religion in his homeland had been dominated by the long reign of King Manasseh who had been keen not to offend his Assyrian masters. This meant that idolatry was the order of the day and that the temple in Jerusalem had fallen into decay. However things were to change quite dramatically when a new king came to the throne in Judah. His name was Josiah and his reign began in 639BCE. He was determined to shake free from the shackles of Assyrian rule and he set about a sweeping religious reform aimed at restoring the temple in Jerusalem to its rightful place.
Jeremiah lived in an important transitional period in Near Eastern history. He witnessed the fall of Assyrian Empire, the rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire under a Chaldean Dynasty. Jeremiah was also witnessed to his own country losing its political independence and become a Babylonian province. Jeremiah was born during the reign of King Josiah, during whose time the book of Deuteronomy was discovered in the temple, who effected the law of the Lord throughout the land, and walked the ways of the Lord, unlike many of his predecessors and successors in Israel. Some scholars are of the opinion that Jeremiah supported the reforms initiated by Josiah in 621BCE. The long life of Jeremiah scanned the reign of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehovahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin, and Zedekiah. It pained the sensitive soul of Jeremiah, like any patriotic Jew, to see his native country losing its freedom and becoming subjective to one foreign power or to the other. However, for him, the fluctuating fortunes of his native land and its repeated subjugation to foreign dominations were due to its unfaithfulness to Yahweh, who was their protector, father and eternal king.
The masses of the population were, of course, like Jeremiah, unhappy with the vicissitudes in their political fortunes and human rights. However, what was the moral problem for Jeremiah was not reckoned so by them at all. That’s why they mocked, jeered, jailed and persecuted the “Prophet of Doom.” They arrested and imprisoned him when they thought he was threatening them with social ills and devastations and disintegration, for reasons which they were not absolutely convinced. It is a truism that until society seems to be disintegrating around our ears, not many people are going to listen to a critic who comes in the name of morality and principled action. This kind of false contentment in the human mind despite innumerable social and moral imponderables is presented in a rare discernable language by Gary North: “The masses want to get all the benefits of principled action, but they also want to continue to follow their unprincipled ways. They want the fruits, but not the roots of morality.” Therefore they refuse to pay heed to prophets and the “Doomsday” people! Jeremiah, like Isaiah and Hosea, was convinced that for Judah to seek political support from the “infidel” Egypt or Syria was really invoking spiritual disaster. For a time, the people were joyous about the backing that Judah received from Egypt against the Babylonian power.
1.2. The call of Jeremiah
As W. Brueggemann writes, “Jeremiah has a vigorous sense of his own call. He not only has a sense of the one who calls, but he has a sense of what it means to be called.” Call narrative is a literary form in the bible. Structure of a call narrative contains six parts: divine confrontation, introductory word, commission, objection, divine assistance and sign. We see all these parts in the case of Jeremiah. Jeremiah might have received his call in the context of a vision in which he heard Yahweh’s word, saw his outstretched hand and felt its touch on his mouth.
The introductory word in the call narrative of Jeremiah constitutes the prior personal involvement of God in the life of Jeremiah. Commission of Jeremiah is his appointment as the prophet of the nations with the twin tasks of destruction and reconstruction. Jeremiah objects the call by expressing his inability of speaking and his inadequacy as a boy. Yahweh promises his assistance to Jeremiah: “I am with you to deliver you.” The symbolic act of Yahweh extending his hand and touching the prophet’s mouth serves the function of sign. The vision of almond rod and boiling pot are further signs.
The call narratives are legitimating texts which announce prophet’s credentials. The call narrative provides legitimation in two ways. First, the narrative claims that God is responsible for the prophesying. God called the prophet and it is God who is responsible for the speaker and the message. The prophet is shown to be exercising legitimate authority, received from God to proclaim the specific message. Secondly, since prophet objected the call, the motive of the prophecy is purely the service of Yahweh rather than any personal gain. So the call narrative in Jeremiah “embodies Jeremiah’s testimony that he is a legitimate prophet, commissioned by Yahweh to speak and act on his behalf.” The divine legitimation should be declared publicly before the concerned audience.
The sacred author states that Jeremiah had been predestined to the prophetic office even before his birth. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you had come out from the womb, I consecrated you, I made you as prophet to the nations” (1: 5). He uses five Hebrew verbs: yastar (form, fasion), yada (know), yasta (come out), qadas (to consecrate, to set apart) and natan (give, set, put, make, appoint). These verbs show the prenatal designation, election, consecration and appointment of Jeremiah to the prophetic office. “The call of Jeremiah is one of the clearest and most explicit biblical formulations of the experience of election. Indeed it is a genuine example of predestination, but not in the sense of a predestination of salvation or damnation; the destiny that matters in Jeremiah’s case is his calling, his vocation.” The call to be a prophet from before one’s birth is unparalleled in other prophetic calls before Jeremiah.
The biblical word yada (know) carries with it two nuances: the first is the intimacy of husband and wife. So knowledge is personal and relational. The second is that of the relationship of suzerain to vassal. So this verb reveals the personal intimacy, love-relationship and covenantal bond between Yahweh and Jeremiah. It shows the special choice of Jeremiah and the particular care and watching over of Jeremiah by Yahweh. The verb qadas (consecrate) means to set apart for God’s purposes. The next verb natan has the meaning of ‘give,’ ‘put,’ ‘set,’ ‘place,’ ‘make’ and ‘appoint.’ Jeremiah is made prophet to the nations. On the whole the five Hebrew verbs connected with the call underline the dignity of the prophetic vocation of Jeremiah and the importance of the mission he has to do with regard to Judah and the nations.
Jeremiah puts forward his objection: he does not know how to speak. And he is only a boy. Moses also objected by saying that he is not eloquent. Jeremiah also says that he is only a boy. Samuel was a boy when he received his call to be Yahweh’s prophet. His words also echo the words of Solomon on entering into kingship. In short Jeremiah raises two objections: he is like Moses in his objection of the inability of speaking; he is like Samuel and Solomon in his age as youth. Jeremiah gets divine assurance and assistance. Yahweh answers the objection of Jeremiah with confidence and mentions the urgency of carrying out the mission.
The mission of Jeremiah is clearly articulated in v.10: “See to this day, I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up, to pull down, to destroy, to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah’s mission includes both destruction and reconstruction. Among the six verbs, four (pluck up, pull down, overthrow, and destroy) stand for the mission of destruction; the other two (build and plant) emphasize the mission of reconstruction. Among the two tasks of destruction and reconstruction, destruction is upper hand. “The four verbs of destruction and two verbs of hope point to the preponderance of judgment-preaching in the book.”
The author uses six infinitives to designate the actions. These six actions have enormous significance in the life of Israel and Judah and the neighboring nations. They have the significance in the destiny of the exilic Jews in Babylon. “These six verbs concerns losing the old world and receiving the new world. This is the meaning of his call, because that is now the future of his people.”
There are two visions of Jeremiah in the call narrative (vv. 11-12: vision of the almond branch; vv. 13-14: vision of the boiling pot). Jeremiah might have had the vision of the almond branch in his native place Anathoth. An ordinary almond branch suddenly brought to him spiritual intuition. According to the scholars the vision of the almond branch is intimately related to the call narrative and it happened simultaneously with the call. The second vision concerning the boiling pot came to Jeremiah not immediately after the first vision. This vision is about the titling of the pot or cauldron from north to south. It gives the warning that some enemy nation or nations from the north will attack and destroy Judah.
1.3. The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah
Destruction and reconstruction are the two aspects of the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah. He is sent to preach destruction through word, deed, symbolic actions and through his own life. This destruction includes all the cherished institutions and traditions of Israel. It has its effects not only in Israel but also in the neighboring nations and empires. But destruction is not an end in itself. After the destruction there emerges a new future which opens up new possibilities and avenues for the nations starting with Israel. W. Brueggemann summarizes these win tasks of Jeremiah thus: “Jeremiah articulates the known world now ending in various ways. His articulation includes the end of the temple, end of the dynasty, and the reversion of the creation to chaos. Each is a metaphor characterizing the nullification of an entire organization of social power and social meaning. After this Jeremiah’s energies and imagination were directed to the “sequential act of constructing a new world out of God’s powerful promise.” As J.G. McConville writes, “The aim of Jeremiah had two important dimensions. First it explained and validated the judgment that had come in the form of the devastation of the land and the exile of his people. Second it provided a credible basis for a future hope of the possible continuation of a covenant relationship between Yahweh and his people.”
1.3.1. Ministry of Destruction
Through his prophetic ministry, Jeremiah destroyed the wrong ideas and false beliefs. He attacked the idolatrous religious practices of the people, social injustice and all sorts of corruption relevant in the society. He tirelessly exhorted the people to repentance. But gradually he understood that the leaders and the people could not repent. They radically went astray and hence a return was impossible. Then he threatened them with ‘oracles of foe from the north.’
Jeremiah destroyed the ‘royal temple ideology’ which upheld that Jerusalem would be inviolable. Through the symbolic action of the breaking of the earthen flask in the presence of elders and senior priests, he gave strong message of destruction of the entire land, city and the people. Since the kings failed in the duties of the execution and righteousness, Jeremiah predicted the destruction of kings, kingship and the Davidic dynasty. He performed the symbolic action of wearing an ox yoke on his neck and appeared before the king and visiting ambassadors of the neighboring nations. He predicted that any alliance against Babylon would be futile. They must either submit to the yoke of Babylon or perish. Jeremiah asserted the destruction of false prophets who delivered the oracle of lie stating the rescue of Judah (23, 9-40). Hananiah, the false prophet broke the yoke carried by Jeremiah and declared freedom from Babylonian domination (28, 1-11). Jeremiah refuted this lie by prophesying the death of Hananiah within that year and it so happened (28, 12-17).
Jeremiah proclaimed judgment on Babylon and other nations. His symbolic action of sinking the scroll that contained the woes against Babylon in the Euphrates River evoked an announcement of the destruction of Babylon (51, 59-64). Babylon is guilty of hubris which demands Yahweh’s punishment. Jeremiah also proclaimed destruction to the remnant people of Judah who fled to Egypt after the assassination of the Governor Gedaliah, disobeying the word of God.
In short, Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of the entire Judah: temple, priests, city, nation, people, kings, dynasty and fake prophets. As L.J Stulman writes, “Nothing can save Judah: neither temple, covenant, its status as an elect people nor Davidic king. All security systems are dreadfully inadequate and ineffectual. Judah must look elsewhere for its newly defined categories of existence as a re-imagined community in the neo Babylonian empire…”All its sacred pillars, temple, covenant, election and Davidic dynasty must be dismantled.” As Carolyn J. Sharp says, “The full judgment view casts Jeremiah in the prophetic role of prophesying doom for the entire world.”
1.3.2. Ministry of Reconstruction
Jeremiah’s prophesies of hope are recorded mainly in the chapters 30-33, which are commonly known as ‘Book of Consolation.” Jeremiah gave hope for the exiled people in Babylon. Yahweh would show special love for Israel. He would restore the union of Judah and Israel. He would heal the people. Exilic people in Babylon constituted the faithful remnant. They would return to Israel after a specific period of exile. Jeremiah redeemed his property at Anathoth, meticulously carrying out the legal transaction. This was a symbolic action which showed that the land of Judah would flourish in future.
Jeremiah gives hope for the arrival of a new leader, a Messiah king whose reign will usher in a new age of prosperity, righteousness and peace. Jeremiah calls him ‘New David,’ or ‘Righteous King.’ Of course it is a new type of Monarchy. God will raise up for David a ‘righteous Branch (23, 5-6). Jeremiah visualizes a future when people are reunited and restored in the ancient land under a righteous ruler. “In Jeremiah the hope of an eschatological kingly rule is another dimension of the difference in its presentation of the historical monarchy vis-à-vis Deuteronomistic history.” The descendant of David envisioned by Jeremiah is a just and righteous upholder of social and juridical order without the traditional pomp and circumstance. The royal savior of Israel is committed to preserving justice and peace within the community.” This is the messianic hopes in Jeremiah.
The deliberate inclusion of the account of Jehoiachin’s release from prison in 562 BCE as the final narrative of the book (52, 31-34) is a masterful statement that there will be a future for the people of God. In the oracles against the nations (chaps. 46-51), there are also references of the restoration of the fortunes of the nations (46, 26).
Oracle of the new covenant (31, 31-340) is considered to be the zenith of hope and restoration in Jeremiah. Once again Yahweh would act to renew the covenantal relationship between himself and the Israelite people. New covenant is characterized by the forgiveness of sins and internalization of God’s Torah. In short, remnant theology, messianic theology and theology of the new covenant are the great achievements of Jeremiah’s ministry of reconstruction. This reconstruction does not depend on Judah’s repentance and obedience. It is unconditional. As W. Brueggemann writes, “The radical articulation of hope in the book of Jeremiah concerns Yahweh’s singular intention, which does not depend on Israel’s repentance. Such a hope is genuine novum in the book of Jeremiah. That hope cannot be understood in terms of antecedent traditions, but is in fact a great theological gap beyond deuteronomic symmetry.”
According to Stulman, “The book of Jeremiah is ultimately a survivor’s guide for dispirited exiles living on the edge of despair. It is a map of hope for people whose lives have been utterly shattered.” According to Kathleen M O’Connor, “The book does contain a river of accusation, destruction and weeping but across its complex literary composition there flows a steady spring of hope and renewal. Read synchronically as a document for exiles, Jeremiah is a book of life.”
188.8.131.52. Mission of reformation and liberation
A generation ago, scholars presented prophets as basically innovators of new teaching, for they thought the prophets were the people who introduced new ideas relating to monotheism and requiring proper ethical conduct. However further study of the Israel proved the contrary facts that the prophets were not innovators, but reformers who stood in the main stream of Israel’s tradition. Jeremiah was of course one of them. Because his essential role was not to introduce new doctrine, to an inner motivation for ethical living, back to God himself. Jeremiah challenged his hearers with demands of God, and spoke about the coming day of God. He was firm in his belief about God’s freedom, convinced that he would bring about something new for Israel.
Jeremiah’s main task was reformation to bring about revolutions in thought, philosophy, social, economic and political organization; and to eliminate all sorts of social injustice. This was to show a way or an alternative to come out of the clutches of evil and exploitation. Thus the prophetic task in the words of Walter Brueggemann, is to offer a genuine alternative, which is based ultimately on the fact that God is a God of freedom, who is not bound by our feeble and puny laws or our limited logical reason. Thus Jeremiah was opting for a human culture instead of an idolatrous culture, seeking another kind of social order, a different organization of economic life and other types of human relationships marked by love, justice, equality and freedom for all to be creative and caring.
184.108.40.206. Mission to redefine life’s ways and goals
The prophet is called not only to dismantle structures of exploitation and to de-colonize the human mind, but also to redefine life’s ways and goals, which involved opting for a more human culture in place of idol worship and apostasy, which can be very well seen in the life and mission of the prophet Jeremiah. It was the renewal of the old covenant of fidelity to Yahweh, the God who created and sustains the whole world. The prophets were not teachers of the Law, though they spoke about it, they never stats its precepts in a line upon line form.
True prophecy is a dynamic movement which combines criticism of the oppressive present, graced remembrance of the past, and the liberating exhibition of alternative futures to convert potentially destructive energies into the saving waters of life. So the prophets by drawing energy from the Word of God have to reorient the community. Prophetic voice is not merely a chance of immediate behaviors, but a return to the best tradition and the way of life. It is not much flag-bearing protest as a persistent call to a way of being in the world that is different from that of the dominant culture.
At the grass-root level, the concept of reform underlines the thrust and the core of prophetic spirituality; for the prophets do not often refer to the Law by name. Prophet Jeremiah emphasizes the internalization of the Law into the heart and not the externalism in religious practice and mechanical routine in religious thought. He wanted to irradiate the identification of the Law with external religious ceremonies. He did not legally prescribe the Law precisely because he was reformer and not innovator; he aimed at redefining the ways and goals of life, and he beckoned to return to the traditional relationship of the covenant. He was not looking for a carbon copy of liberation, but a radical change to be more human, a finer humanity, a newness and freshness in facing the real situations of life.
220.127.116.11. Mission of stirring up hopes and ideals
The prophetic mission is primarily connected to an incident, or to a community, even to a nation. The prophets were not an island of the time, nor unaffected by the influence of people around them. History shows that the breaking of the covenant continued throughout 12th to the 6th centuries BCE. Even in the darkest hour and crisis the prophets did not leave the people without hope. The prophet is called to foster the hope and the typical example for this is none other than prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was fostering the hope of the people precisely because he knows the pain and contradictions of life and refuses to be overcome by evil, he always seeks to promote growth and encourages perseverance. So in this way prophet Jeremiah’s essential mission was to stir up hopes and ideals in the people. He constantly reminds the people of God’s programme and helped them to rediscover meaning, trust and hope. By this he could penetrate a situation, foster a charismatic vision and release a spirit and inject adrenaline into the heart of the instrumental structure.
The prophet has to serve as intercessor and mediator too. Intercession is an integral component of the true prophet’s mission. Although priests were the prime intercessors in the Old Testament period, the prophets were also considered as intercessors. He mediated God’s mercy toward a people that was turning away from God. Jeremiah is a special model of a prophet mediating and interceding is an integral part of his prophetic mission. His prayer deals with hopes and dreams not yet visible on the surface. He offered pleas and petitions on behalf of the people and plead with God. his mission was directed to a community and he had a tremendous relation with the society and community to which they are called.
1.4. Challenges of prophetic mission
A prophet does not elect to prophesy nor does he become a prophet by dint of a native or an acquired faculty in his part. Prophesy is neither a science nor a branch of philosophy to be learned or mastered. Striving to be one with God, nor mystical union, nor the indwelling of God within the spirit of the prophet through rapture, trances or spiritual contemplation and meditation, the prophet is selected and consecrated by God and irresistibly compelled to deliver His message and impart His will even if he personally disagrees with it. However the prophet’s individuality and identity is never curtailed.
Biblical prophetic writings especially the cal narrative of the prophets emphasise that each prophet received a particular task or mission which is unique and specific and the call is an awareness of the prophetic mission to Israel or to other nations. Thus the mission articulates the goal and the task of the prophets.
Christians recognize that any one they consider prophetic is still human and fallible, and may make wrong decisions, have incorrect personal believes or opinions, and sin from time to time; the human characteristics of a prophet are independent of the message of God has given him and do not negate the validity of prophesies. Nevertheless they believe the minimum requirements of a true prophet can be summarized as follows: (1) clear (not vague) prophesies; (2) cent percent accuracy in prophesying (that is one false prophecy is all it takes to disqualify them as a prophet) and (3) must not contradict the scripture. There were quite a number of times prophet Jeremiah was misunderstood by many in Israel and was even planned to kill him. It is indeed a challenge before a prophet to be acceptable in the presence of the people. Even if the people are not in good terms with the words of the prophet it is obviously the duty of the prophet to announce the message of God though it is very harsh and unpleasant. The greatest challenge that a prophet faces will the tension he has to undergo to make the people come back to the ways of Yahweh.
PROPHETIC MISSION IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT
2.1. Prophetic mission and challenges in the Indian context
Today the world becomes more and more religiously pluralistic; and secularism faces many challenges in Asia and in particular. The present scenario demands a comprehensive expose of the modern theological trends for contextualization. The Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah in particular, developed their spirituality and their particular mission on the basis of their relationship with God within the particular context of their time and place. Perceiving the existing social injustice, corruption and exploitation the prophets called for reformation and liberation and exhorted them to redefine life’s ways and goals by stirring up hopes and ideals. Their commitment to the particular mission was neither just a secular movement nor a popular easy life culture. Their mission was a total response to God’s call and they were only his ambassadors.
Religions have a prophetic mission to face the challenges of the multi-religious situations. Considering the social situations prevailing in India, each religious is called to go into remote areas to witness to the liberation aspect of Jesus Christ. They should try to emancipate the exploited, the rejected, the neglected, the less privileged and the suffering from the clutches of evil and corruption. As biblical prophets they are called to identify their wills with that of God and to express God’s compassion and mercy for others.
Being modern prophets, they are primarily called to practice what they preach and to personalize God’s kingdom in life. The prophetic missions to a great extend makes strong and radical demands on every religious. So they have the responsibility to execute the mission without watering down its content to please audiences. Even if one has to endure difficulties, pain and misunderstanding, one must promulgate the entrusted mission.
Current trends of exploitation, corruption, euthanasia, sexism, abortion, racism, economic monopoly of the elite class, call for a change of life styles. While millions of people starve, or lack shelter and clothing, or other basic necessities, religious have the responsibility to conscientise the rich and the affluent to open their eyes towards the suffering and the misery of the majority. Religious are called to invite others to render mercy, compassion and empathy; and develop a spirit of co-operation and understanding. It is an invitation to be more humane, more empathetic.
However, the challenge need not be an aggressive and argumentation of an action nor destructive world. It may be simply a firm, clear, unwavering presentation in the word and action of an alternative vision and conduct. One could even with, religious congregation, community, formation house, parish, school, college or institution and enlarge to other fields of life. Religious are thus called to be the light of the world and be an inspiration to others to see the original light of Christ and his prophetic mission of liberation.
2.1.1. Social injustice
While it is difficult to give a complete and adequate definition of justice, most observers can recognize clear examples of serious injustice when they arise. Such injustice comes in various forms, wherever the norms of distributive justice, procedural justice, or human rights are violated.
18.104.22.168. The many faces of injustice
There are many faces for the injustice done in the society. Political injustice involves the violation of individual liberties, including the denial of voting rights or due process, infringements on rights to freedom of speech or religion, and inadequate protection from cruel and unusual punishment. Such injustice often stems from unfair procedures, and involves political systems in which some but not others are allowed to have voice and representation in the processes and decisions that affect them. This sort of procedural injustice can contribute to serious social problems as well as political ones.
Economic injustice involves the state’s failure to provide individuals with basic necessities of life, such as access to adequate food and housing, and its maintenance of huge discrepancies in wealth. In the most extreme cases of maldistribution, some individuals suffer from poverty while the elite of that society live in relative luxury. Such injustice can stem from unfair hiring procedures, lack of available jobs and education, and insufficient health care. All of these conditions may lead individuals to believe that they have not received a “fair share” of the benefits and resources available in that society. Even more serious than the injustices discussed above are war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Defining corruption is not an easy task. Indeed there is no international consensus on the meaning of corruption. It operates at different levels, in different sectors or spheres and is likely to manifest itself very differently according to the setting in which it is found. One of the simplest and perhaps the most commonly used definitions of corruption is the misuse of public office for private gain. A broader definition of corruption is the abuse of the entrusted power for private gain at the expense of others or of the society as a whole.
Corruption can occur in many forms, in different types of organizations, and at different levels within the organizations. Corrupt practices range from small amounts paid for frequent transactions, to bribes to escape taxes, regulations or to win relatively minor procurement contracts, to massive and wholesome corruption. Corruption is multi-sectoral. It is both a governance and economic problem and is manifested in all development and service delivery sectors. It affects multiple levels of government from the central to the regional to the local levels. It is also influenced by situational factors.
22.214.171.124.2. Caste Discrimination
Caste is both a structural and a cultural concept. It is a structural concept from the point of view of the fact that a caste society has a definite structure based on the ideology of purity and pollution. The twin concept of purity and pollution paradoxically attracts different castes to a common platform of interaction, yet some sort of repulsion also governs their interrelationship. Structure as it is construed is based on expected or ideal mode of relationship in the totality of organization of caste society. From cultural point of view, each caste has a definite set of intercaste relational values which are in the minds of the actors in the form of knowledge about caste rites, duties, privileges, immunities, entitlements and position in the social order.
Caste society is complex in structure and it creates discrimination. The interrelationship between castes is not a simple one. It is not only horizontal or vertical, tangential and crosses as well as diadic, triadic and multiplex. At the organizational level people belonging to different castes appropriately sort out their own level of and nature of interaction with members of other castes. A caste or sub-caste is homogeneous, but the caste society is heterogeneous with complex structure. Social and economic interrelationship between castes is based on age-old norms and values.
126.96.36.199.3. Violence against women
Women once venerated as the mother and the perpetuating angel of mankind has come to be looked upon as ‘the unblessed creature of God’ in India, because of the club-and-drag cave-man attitude of the traditionally male-dominated society. If we turn on the dailies in the morning, we shudder to read hair-raising instances of male chauvinism travelling in ‘sexism, racism, violence and poverty’ to women representing the ‘masculine mystique belief in the inevita-bility of violence against women.
With the advance of material prosperity and easy money, sex and violence have become the order of the day. Drunk with eroticism, the Indian ‘man’ is unable to dis¬tinguish between woman and woman. Rapes and brutal murders have become common news. All the social, political, economic and cultural progress made by us is nullified by the simultaneous increase in violence against women. Violence against women in India is becoming more frequent and is alarmingly on the increase. A heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of our social workers. But the biggest responsibility will be that of the women themselves. They have borne the tyranny of man far too long.
188.8.131.52. How to respond to Injustice
Many scholars and activists note that in order to truly address injustice internationally, we must strive to understand its underlying causes. These causes have to do with underdevelopment, economic pressures, various social problems, and international conditions. Indeed, the roots of repression, discrimination, and other injustice stem from deeper and more complex political, social, and economic problems. It is only by understanding and ameliorating these root causes and strengthening civil society that we can truly protect human rights. There are various ways to address the political, economic and social injustices mentioned above. Whether a response proves to be appropriate and effective depends on the nature of the grievance. Addressing political injustice is often a matter of developing institutions of fair governance, such as an accountable police force and judiciary.
2.1.2. Exploitation in India
By exploitation we mean the extraction of surplus from labour by those who do not themselves labour. The process of exploitation is not a process in the cultural or social fields. The process of exploitation can only come through the relations that exist among various human beings while creating new products in the process of production. It is not a historical fact that these relations are those of exploitation everywhere and among all humans. Exploitation is not an “eternal” fact and will not necessarily exist in the future. In the matriarchal society the relations of production were not those of exploitation.
A system in which production gives more than is necessary for an abundant existence is one in which “surplus” is created. Such surplus is fundamental for a society of varied production. When the productive forces give more than the food that is necessary to live on, then there is a surplus created. When this happens then some humans are freed from simply producing food. They can do such work as creating clothes and tools. After producing the food or clothes necessary for themselves they can then produce for others. The others may do varied forms of production, or take leisure, or devote themselves to art and philosophy. Thus a “social division of labour” is born.
Exploitation in India leads to social inequalities. Social inequality refers to relational processes in society that have the effect of limiting or harming a group’s social status, social class, and social circle. Areas of social inequality include access to voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, the extent of property rights and access to education, health care, quality housing, traveling, transportation, vacationing and other social goods and services. Apart from that it can also be seen in the quality of family and neighborhood life, occupation, job satisfaction, and access to credit. If these economic divisions harden, they can lead to social inequality.
2.2. Jeremiah’s Prophetic Mission: A challenge for the priests and religious in the Indian context
Many people who have been baptized live lives entirely divorced from Christianity. Some live on the fringes of Church but do not live according to her teachings. They are constantly influenced by those who have no religion or else have various other philosophies. They justify it as a sort of internal religion based on their laws and standards of authenticity. Widespread indifferentism, sad to say, is found among the Christians, based on incorrect theological perspectives characterized by religious relativism. In these cases what is needed is a new-evangelization or re-evangelization- a prophetic new-evangelization.
Though the new-evangelization is the work of the entire Church, priests and religious have a necessary and indispensable role in this task, a primary responsibility of prophetically re-evangelizing the people in the Church; of communicating the gospel of Christ through their own personal witness- holiness of life. This is primarily a call to conversion for both priests and religious. In their threefold function of priest, prophet and pastor, prophetic preaching of the word to the baptized is vey essential. It is in this that the prophetic function of Christian vocation is and will be called into play.
Religious by their very nature and calling to live according to the evangelical counsels, are challenged to be prophetic, giving primacy to God and His Kingdom. By their personal and community witness they are challenged to offer a sign of hope to the world, manifesting that it is possible to be fulfilled by a radical following of the evangelical counsel and beatitudes, in lives marked by a generous justice, reckless love and limitless listening to the voices of the whole world. It means going to counter the consumerism, hedonism, egoism and apathy towards the poor. It is a challenge to build the contrast communities which witness to unity within the diversity of cultures, nations, races, languages and background.
The religious are called with a prophetic role to speak out as liberators of the oppressed, promoters of social justice and co-creators of the environment which is one of the burning issues of our times. Today we are called by Jesus to inspire, to edify, to lead others to the God of love by our very presence by surrendering completely to His word and our every word, gesture, and actions should mediate this divine presence to those around us. For this first and foremost the prophets must be persons of deep God experience which will lead them to be immersed in the lives of the people and to be open to the realities around and helping one another to live a witnessing life. Religious life has a prophetic dimension and each religious is called to be a prophet of the modern time. The mission of the religious is the supreme prophetic task. Pope John Paul Ii defines the renewal of the religious in terms of mission. His call clearly structures all other aspects of religious life towards mission. Prophetic mission is present in the consecrated life from the beginning of its history. From the inception of each congregation and religious movement, a particular prophetic mission was involved. It is a sharing of Christ’s life today. The Synodal Apostolic Exhortation vita consecrate says, “The prophetic character of the consecrated life…takes the shape of a special form of sharing in Christ’s prophetic office, which the Holy Spirit communicates to the whole people of God. There is prophetic dimension which belongs to the consecrated life as such resulting from the radical nature of the following of Christ and of the subsequent dedication of the mission characteristics of the consecrated life.”
The study of Jeremiah’s call as a prophet and his mission as a challenge to the present context draws out certain conclusions;
Each call is a grace of God and is precious. It is God who takes the initiative in calling persons for his tasks in the world. Jeremiah’s call is a paradigmatic vocation in the sense that it sheds light on the call and mission of each Christian and indeed each human being in the world.
In Jeremiah’s call, there is particular emphasis on the word of God. God himself is watching over the word which he has put in the mouth of Jeremiah. The whole book of Jeremiah exhorts the reader to make a decision either for the word or against the word.
Jeremiah’s call emphasizes the supreme greatness and sublimity of every vocation in the world. Before he was formed as foetus in the womb of his mother, God knew him; before he came out from the womb of his mother, God consecrated him and appointed him as a prophet to the nations. The five verbs, ‘formed,’ ‘knew,’ ‘came out from the womb,’ ‘consecrated,’ and ‘appointed’ (‘made’), show God’s great plan and love for each one of us. Jeremiah’s call is a paradigm for each human’s vocation to do wonderful things in the wonderful world created by God. These five verbs enhance our self-esteem and self-confidence; they empower us to plunge into the task given to us.
Accepting the inequality is acknowledging our ‘littleness’ before God. It is another way of asking the continuous grace of God to fulfill the mission. This God-consciousness will help the called person to protect himself from hubris and presumption. It safeguards the called person from both arrogance and depression. Jeremiah’s confessions and their resolution through trust in God naturally flow out from this awareness of the need of Grace.
Jeremiah’s call is intrinsically linked with the mission. The mission of Jeremiah is specified by six verbs: to pluck up, to pull down, to destroy, to overthrow, to build, and to plant. Among these six verbs, four verbs signify the destructive activities and two verbs signify constructive activities. Destruction and construction are the primordial activities of God. These activities continuously occur in God’s primary works of creation, redemption, sanctification and consummation. God of the Bible is God of salvation and liberation. He is love and truth. He must engage in destruction- destroying the evil force- for constructing a new heaven and new earth. So destruction is always for construction. In that particular era of human history when Jeremiah lived, destruction was the immediate necessity in the plan of God. Jeremiah’s most important mission consists in destruction. That’s why four verbs signify destruction and only two verbs show construction.
In spite of the bulk of the tasks of destruction, Jeremiah’s book also contains very original views of reconstruction like prophesy of the new covenant. The so called ‘book of consolation’ attracts us by the perennial message of hope and reconstruction. Jeremiah constantly teaches us to believe in humans and hope for the best. Catastrophes and tragedies of life are not the end. From all gloom and collapse, there will emerge something fresh and new which is far beyond all our expectations. The mission of Jeremiah though it contains destruction, primarily anchors on hope and reconstruction. Study of the Jeremianic call and mission clarifies our own mission of destruction and reconstruction in the contemporary world.
Jeremiah is a prophet to the nations. He accomplished the mission of destruction and reconstruction not only as regards Judah, but also in relation with other nations of the world. He proclaimed destruction and reconstruction equally to Judah and Babylon, the arch enemy of Judah. His prophesies have their repercussions in most of the neighboring countries. Thus Jeremiah stands as an international figure, dismantling the narrow sectarian outlooks of that time.
The call and mission of Jeremiah have an abiding message for the Church today. As in the case of Jeremiah, the Church has the mission to fulfill the twin tasks of destruction and reconstruction: destruction of the sinful structures of the world and the reconstruction of the new world based on the Gospel values. But to accomplish this task in the society more effectively, first we as the members of the Church must embody these tasks of destruction and reconstruction in our own selves by bearing witness to the word of God in our day-to-day lives. Church as the community must live the message of the gospel, which are fundamentally destruction and reconstruction or judgment and hope. Prophet Jeremiah teaches that authentic life witness is the essential condition for the fruitfulness of the mission.
If there is prophetic future for the Church, in a larger pluralist, secularist, individualist, clannish, fundamentalists infested world, it will be in our learning genuinely how to love our neighbour, how to wish them no harm, to wish them peace, even if they may wish us dead, and at the same time, learn how make peace with their oppression and violence. Such a Church will necessarily disrupt the status quo also. If we are not annoying those who hold social, economic and ecclesial power in place we cannot be a prophetic Church. Prophets are seldom stars but dangerous, not boring. What is needed is an authentic prophetic spirituality for the Church with vibrant priests and religious to shoulder the tasks.
In the contemporary scenario of religious pluralism, secularism and indifference, it is a prophetic mission to have an honest approach to life and an awareness of its complexities and polarities. It is an invitation to rearticulate our faith and commitment. The prophetic mission arises out of life situations. It is inextricably related to Christian life and the very existence of each person. It is a challenge to a long hard look at life and acknowledges its complexities. It is a vocation to proclaim the Word of God and incorporate it into the daily human experience.
The fulfillment of our prophetic mission may occur in a simple fashion, with little fuss, difficulty, misunderstanding etc. it may happen in ordinary everyday life situations at times, or when particular occasion provoke it. However the prophetic mission becomes an invitation for discernment of the authentic word of God and courage and perseverance to encounter difficulties and challenges. Its fulfillment depends neither on human capacities nor influences and talents, but primarily on divine grace and the plan of God. True prophets do not seek ‘modern seeking politics’ and favoritism, but discernment of God’s action for the people. They will accept responsibilities for a particular mission without watering down its content in order to please their audience and political authorities. They will persevere in proclaiming and executing that mission, even if as a result they have to endure suffering, difficulties and misunderstanding.
Executing the prophetic mission is not an easy task, but it is a particular vocation, a responsibility. One need not be worried about emerging difficulties no matter how impossible the task seems. As an adage says: “You are not obliged to complete your work, but you are not at liberty to quit it.” At time one may have to be patient, or continue to live in misunderstanding and difficulties, but somehow, somewhere, God will execute his divine plan, because “no seed ever sees the flower.” India needs such prophetic religious with mission and vision to be creative and dynamic.
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