In the quiet Ohio neighborhood where I live, a passage such as this from Jeremiah is hard to grasp. My neighbors and I don’t generally think in terms of enemies hatching plots against us. My family doesn’t talk in terms of others betraying, wounding or killing us. Around here, the few people who think in such terms are generally regarded as eccentric—conspiracy theorists and the like.
Yet, all of us are called to grapple with these difficult scriptures. Even if we ourselves don’t feel threatened at the moment, we might pray this passage on behalf of people for whom plots, violence and evil are an everyday reality: neighborhoods where shootings are common; victims of domestic violence; war-torn countries. Perhaps the passage is calling us to stand with the suffering–by entrusting their cause to God in prayer, and by taking action ourselves to end war and violence in our world.
Notice in the passage that it is God whom we ask to “take vengeance” against evildoers in the ways that God deems best. This passage doesn’t tell us to take the responsibility for vengeance upon ourselves. We entrust our cause to God.
Another way to grapple with this passage is to look inside ourselves. Are there inner critics, grudges, anxieties, addictions or ways of thinking that keep you from living fully? Are there habits of the heart that incapacitate the person God is calling you to be?
—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Xavier University’s theology program and belongs to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. She is also a published poet.