What is told in the dark can now be told in daylight - humanity has been freed from slavery. ‘Do not be afraid’!
Jeremiah expresses something of the nature of the dialogue with God. Friends of God, like the prophets, have an unquenchable trust that God is their champion and is, as he says, at their side. This gives him a sense of invincibility against all his detractors. Not only is God defined as the one on the side of righteous humanity, but God is marked out and addressed directly as the epitome of justice, ‘you who scrutinise the loins and the heart.’ Hence, Jeremiah can commit his cause confidently to God and can sing the Lord’s praises. Prophets are defined as those who are fearless partners in the divine-human dialogue. Their whole identity is bound up within it.
Paul brings the consciousness which Jeremiah developed of the nature of God to its logical but earth-shattering conclusion. God is so devoted to us that He replaces or subsumes and sums up all the previous human agents and ‘speaks’ Himself into being human. As Paul says, Adam (humanity) prefigured the One who was to come. If humanity has fallen away from the dialogue, then this gift of God as Man must outweigh that falling away. So, he moves from the justice envisaged by Jeremiah to the notion of grace – the totally unmerited abundant free gift of Godself in the man Paul experienced as Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus. This is the final and all-embracing stage of the dialogue. Henceforth all human intimacy with God has received its model in Christ. Humanity has God written into its being and in all its search for goodness, truth and beauty.
Matthew recounts an instruction of dialogue between Jesus and the Twelve. Its principles can govern all our subsequent conversations with God. First, we must not be afraid. Humanity still wants to cover its nakedness but Jesus, out of an indescribable intimacy with the Father, can simply say we (not at all confined to Christians!) should not be afraid of speaking with God who knows us more closely than we know ourselves. Jesus uses an unprecedented image to try and describe the unimaginable closeness of God to each human being: ‘every hair on your head has been counted.’ The next thought? There is no need to be afraid! The images of the closeness of the relationship between us and God come thick and fast. A revolution is underway. Never had humanity heard of this ‘God with us’ – or at most had been driven by searing experience of deep love or suffering to dare barely to name it. Then Jesus speaks of his relationship with his Father. The image of God as Father should not leave us other than amazed. It leads us to the idea and certainty that God can be spoken to simply and purely. St Therese of Lisieux as many saints known and unknown, have this simplicity born of the conviction that God is Father – Abba. It led her and can lead us to speak straightforwardly with God but also with others. What is told in the dark can now be told in daylight; whispers can be proclaimed. Humanity has been freed from slavery to all the images of God which speak of fear and dread. ‘Do not be afraid’!