“We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no.”
I can’t tell you have many times I have heard that refrain in the last couple of weeks! This catchy number from Disney’s “Encanto” speaks about the family Madrigal’s practice of shunning bad news and uncomfortable truths in order to preserve the peace that their grandmother, or abuela, desires. It’s not that Bruno is a bad guy or even wrong; it’s that what he has shared is uncomfortable. So, we don’t talk about him.
“Sometimes, family weirdos get a bad rap,” Mirabel tells her tio Bruno.
In our first reading today, Jeremiah is receiving his vision, his mission – and it is not going to be a pleasant one for those who hear him. God tells him,
Gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judah’s kings and princes, against the priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
Jeremiah’s ministry was marked by fierce opposition from the people, their leaders, and priests. God’s call to them to return to faithfulness and trust in His sovereignty was not accepted as a promise of blessing but as an interruption to their comfortable life and a challenge to their assumptions. Therefore, the leaders just “didn’t talk about Jeremiah, no, no, no,” and they even tried to remove him from the picture completely.
Such is the challenge of the prophet. And sometimes family weirdos get a bad rap.
However, Jeremiah still has a mission, and there is still truth to be spoken. Jesus, too, has this experience. He is the Truth that God wishes to speak to the world, and the comfort of the establishment is not His concern. When Christ comes to His own people, He shares a message that is not easy for them to hear – one that challenges their assumptions – and they react rather violently. They don’t want to hear it; they’d rather keep on going, not talking about Jesus.
Israel wanted to protect their own interests. The priests and leaders of the people wanted to be in control of their destiny and were happy to be a people set apart. When Christ comes and speaks of a much broader scope of God’s love and compassion, it pricks their sensibilities, and they begin to push back. Jeremiah, we are told, is appointed a prophet to the nations – not only a small group of privileged people. Jesus is the Savior of the world – not only the self-righteous religious elite. And this is God’s will to boot – whether people like it or not.
This is just as true today in our world and in our Church. And like then, we need prophetic people to speak God’s truth to us. Let me be clear: this is not just “my truth” or “your truth”; it is not simply being bothered by the way things are not to your liking. Rather, this is about “the Truth.” We can become a little blind to it, especially when we are seeking to preserve a status quo that is comfortable for us – even more so for our leaders. In those cases, we defend ourselves by not talking about things and shutting down voices that challenge us. In other words, “We don’t talk about Bruno.”
When we hear uncomfortable words – truth spoken in good faith to help us grow – stop and think about that. Don’t criticize, demonize, or ignore them. Reflect on them. Perhaps these are prophetic words, inspired by God in order to help us along our way. Many times, these words are coming from the fringes, from our young people, or from that unquiet place in our own hearts. Hiding from them is a sign of dysfunction – just like the family Madrigal in “Encanto.” We are guilty of it in our own families, in our politics, and even in our Church. When we ignore difficult truths, our family – the human family – suffers.
These same dysfunctions affected Jeremiah and Jesus – and countless other prophets throughout time. Why should we believe that we are immune to this same resistant attitude? However, what Jesus brings to us today – especially today – is a vision of a better world: a world that God looks upon and loves regardless of our station or status, regardless of our power or privilege, regardless of our conformity or complacency. This is the world that Jesus redeemed, and you and I are a part of it. Prophets continue to share God’s Truth; and it can be hard to hear sometimes. But our faith teaches us that listening to these voices is a pathway to great blessing, renewal of our spirit, and ultimately the joy of the Kingdom.
So, start talking about Bruno – or better yet, talk about Jesus! Because in Him Scripture is fulfilled in our hearing.