Seduced by God

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

“You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.”

Jeremiah 20:7

Does God ever deceive us? That question may enter into our minds this Sunday when we hear the prophet Jeremiah say, “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped” (Jer 20:7). It sounds like Jeremiah was being tricked or deceived, and that seems incompatible with the actions of a perfectly good and loving God.

The Hebrew word being translated as “duped” in this passage is patah, which can have several different meanings depending on the context. It can mean “deceived” but it can also mean “seduced.” And there is a long tradition in the Church in favor of the “seduced” meaning in this passage. Jeremiah here is speaking as a lover and a poet. He has fallen madly in love with God and cries out, “You have seduced me, O Lord, and I let myself be seduced.”

This love of God is so overwhelming that Jeremiah is even willing to endure great hardship because of it. His mission to proclaim God’s word did not win him any friends. It set Jeremiah at odds with the world and led to his persecution, trial and imprisonment. Yet such was his love for God that he could not stop himself from speaking God’s praises. He had been seduced!

If only we all had such love of God! The hardships of our life would not disappear — they may even increase, as they did for Jeremiah — but they would be made sweet by the knowledge that they are but our share in the saving cross of Christ.

Jesus, in this Sunday’s gospel reading, begins to speak to the Apostles about his coming suffering and death. He has fallen so madly in love with us that he is willing to die for us! And he tells us that if we wish to be his disciples, we must also be willing to walk that same path. We must not hesitate to take up our own cross and follow him, wherever he leads us, even if it is to Golgotha. 

Some are called by God to take up our cross literally, like St. Peter and so many of his successors who suffered martyrdom for their love of the Lord. But we are all called to carry the cross in our hearts by enduring the trials of this world with patience and charity, and by crucifying within ourselves any desires that run contrary to the word of God. 

This is the way of the disciple — to carry our cross and follow after Jesus one step at a time. Who would voluntarily endure such a thing? Only one who is in love. We embrace the cross because it is Jesus’ cross. We gladly go to Calvary because Jesus is there. We love the poor and the meek because Jesus is meek and so we seek to become meek ourselves. 

In the eyes of the world, all this is foolishness. It looks like we are being duped. But we know better. We are being seduced by Love itself, revealed to us in all its humble majesty on the cross of Christ.