But this command I gave them, "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you." Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward.
From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did. So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
Jesus was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? – for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever oes not gather with me scatters."
Basic virtues, like justice, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, loyalty, loving affection, makes the difference between heaven and hell, life and death. Jeremiah clearly sees that these are the qualities that give life its purpose: "Only if you reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbour, if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood, or follow strange gods to your own harm will I [your God] remain with you." (7:5-7) Jesus too is clear about the right thing to do. To his detractors he says: 'If I have done a good thing, how can you think I acted with an evil spirit? If I show mercy to a mute person, do not accuse me of sin!' The messianic age is at hand if we can speak kindly, love compassionately, protect courageously, receive even the alien warmheartedly.
Jeremiah and Jesus are not so different as much as we might suppose. We must not be stiff-necked, but faithful, listening and responding to God. Jeremiah ends with the word "faithfulness." In the Hebrew the phrase implies: be what you are supposed to be! He calls for consistency, fidelity, in our relationship with God and with our neighbours, even the refugees in our midst. Lent invites us to help the needy and the stranger, that these basic virtues become second nature to us. Then we will be acting under the finger of God and promoting the kingdom of God in our world.
Some people saw Jesus in a completely negative light, thinking that his power to heal was Satan's gift. Instead of acknowledging God power at work through Jesus, they despised him as Satan's tool. It is hard to conceive of a greater error than that. They were calling good evil. In response to their grave misjudgement, Jesus simply attributes all of his healing work to the finger of God. God was at work in Jesus and some of his own contemporaries could not see it. We can all be blind to the finger of God, to the working of God among us.
We are graced in some way by God and we hardly notice it. The Lord blesses us and rather than recognize the blessing and giving thanks for it we focus on what we do not have or what is wrong in our lives. We need to keep on praying for the gift to see as Jesus sees, which is the opposite of how people in the gospel saw. Jesus saw the working of God in creation, in the sower, the vineyard, the flowers of the field and birds of the air. He saw God's presence in those whom many people had written off. Jesus teaches us to see with generous and hopeful eyes. When we see with those kind of eyes, then, in the words of Paul, we will be inspired to give thanks in all circumstances.