Jeremiah levels these words against Yahweh in the liturgy's first reading: "You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook..."(Ch 16:18). For us now the understanding of that phrase may mean a stream turbulent with rushing water, stirred up by rocks visible or invisible in the stream. It would a be a dangerous experience if anyone should attempt to cross through it. In Old Testament language the phrase has a completely different meaning. A treacherous brook is a stream that has gone dry particularly at a time when water is sorely needed.
Perhaps we might say that we have come to experience our nation and/or our Church as a "treacherous brook whose waters do no abide" (Ch 16:18). Many polls, those reports that become the media gospel sources for many, tell us that many feel that our nation is going in a wrong direction. There is no water abiding in our national stream when we sorely need it. And our Church, our mother, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, has become for so many a treacherous brook, seemingly without the abiding waters so many either want or need. How many of our Church have walked away from what they consider a treacherous brook that offers little if any comfort or support? So many among us are disappointed, confused or angered by current experiences -- sexual abuse scandals and obvious cravings for power within the Church at many different levels. In a recent conversation with a recognized authority on our Church, I learned that one of the larger archdioceses, famous for its history and numerous Catholics are now drawing only 17%, yes, s e v e n t e e n percent, of that entire Archdiocese for weekend liturgies! Isn't this a sign that something is amiss?
Jeremiah is bemoaning the loss of what was! The wonder of its time, the holy city Jerusalem lay destroyed. Young men, the king's armies, lay dead in the fields. There are a large number of widows in the towns. This is described in the first ten verses of the 16th chapter of Jeremiah.
So, what does Yahweh answer to Jeremiah's moaning and pleading? In just a few words Yahweh is clear: in verse 19 of Chapter 16 he says:
If you repent so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand;
if you bring forth the precious with the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece.
Matthew's gospel is about two individuals who make discoveries: one person comes upon a buried treasure and another, obviously a salesman, finds sought after fine pearls. Both sell all they have to purchase the discovered treasures.
The message is clear: do I recognize the need repentance? Is there any desire in my heart to stand before my God, seeking his forgiveness, discovering his treasure for me? Or have WE become the treacherous brook --- our relationship to God and the Church no longer possessing water, abiding grace? Ouch!!