XII Sunday of Ordinary time

XII Sunday of Ordinary time

Sab, 20 Giu 20 Lectio Divina - Anno A

Readings:  Jeremiah 20: 10-13;

Psalm 69: 8-10, 14, 17, 33-35;     
Romans 5: 12-15;

Matthew 10:26-33

The liturgy of the 12th Sunday in Ordinary time invites all to reflect on the truth that being faithful to God has both its benefits and its challenges. 

Prophet Jeremiah senses the hostility of those who are plotting his death because he faithfully proclaims God’s Word.  Even those whom he once had counted as his friends have turned against him.  In the Gospel, Jesus reminds His disciples that they, too, will have some difficult times, but as long as they stay, focused on their mission, they should not fear because God will be faithful to the divine promises made.

  Jeremiah had a tough life as a prophet for God.  He was called from a very young age (Jer. 1: 4-8).  He did not want to be a prophet.  God called him in spite of his youth.  Later in his prophetic career, he tried to stop preaching, but the Word of God burned away within him (Jer. 20: 9).  As we hear today, even as he continues his work for the Lord, Jeremiah knows that he is a marked man, since he does not proclaim what people want to hear, but what the Lord has called him to speak.  Even though Jeremiah is angry at his persecutors, he does not seek his own revenge on them.  Instead, he asks that God will give them what they deserve. 

The excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks of sin and death entering the world because of what one human (Adam) did.  Yet, through one other human (Jesus), the grace of God has entered the world.   And the grace (life of God – relationship with God) that comes from Jesus is much more powerful than the transgression committed by Adam.  We are blessed with the grace that comes from Jesus because of Adam’s sin.  

 The Gospel in which Jesus speaks about their role in the process of announcing the Good News to others.  They may be fearful now as they head out on their first missionary journey, but Jesus promises that His Abba-Father, Who happens to be God, will recognize what they do in His name.  He forecasts that what they have learned and discussed in secret will be proclaimed from housetops and be known throughout the world. 

Of what are you afraid? What fills you with anxiety and fear? Some people are afraid of spiders, others are afraid of dogs, and so much more. As a child, I was so afraid of the dark. Looking back now, it was not so much the dark itself, it was what I thought and imagined was in the dark. Eventually, one night I went into a darkened room and stood there – nothing happened; there was nothing and no one in the dark. My fear of the dark had become worse than the dark itself!

In the first line of today’s gospel Jesus clearly says to his followers and indeed to each of us today, ‘Do not be afraid. Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.’ Contrary to what we might believe, the apostles were not always brave, courageous or strong. Frequently, Jesus had to encourage and strengthen them, just as he does in today’s gospel. In fact he reminds them not to be afraid no less than three times. For some reason it is unknown why they needed this affirmation and reassurance.

These last few months for all of us at a personal, local, national and global level have been filled with worry, anxiety and fear as we have witnessed the Corona virus spread, seemingly out of control. We have perhaps experienced firsthand the impact of the virus. It is only natural that we are afraid. Perhaps, now more than ever, just like the apostles, we too need the encouraging and affirming words of Jesus. Today, can we take just a few minutes of prayerful silence to hear these words from Jesus, ‘Do not be afraid… there is no need to be afraid, you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’

After the Our Father is said at mass, the following line is prayed as part of a longer prayer, ‘as we wait the blessed hope and coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.’ Before this prayer was changed, it read, ‘as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.’ As Christians, we are called to live and wait in joyful hope. Certainly, these days while many of us remain at home separated and isolated, we are waiting hopefully. Christian hope is not like ordinary hope. It is not like the hope we experience while waiting for a bus or watching our team play in the hope that they will win! Christian hope is much deeper; it calls for faith in God. These days we are putting our faith and hope in each other, doctors, nurses and medical staff and in our politicians who daily are making crucial decisions that have an impact on all of us. In prayer, we are also reminded to put our faith and hope in God. As scripture reminds, ‘we have placed our hope in the living God, who is our Saviour.’ (1. Tim. 4.10).

These are difficult and demanding days for all of us. Much of what we have taken for granted has been taken from us. Many more are suffering the pain and bereavement because members of their families, friends or neighbours have died. At time likes this, it is only natural to feel anxious and fearful. These are uncertain times for all of us. This is why the words of Jesus in today’s gospels could not be more appropriate for all us; ‘Do not be afraid… there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’

One of the things that prevents us from boldly proclaiming the Gospel in actions and words is fear.  Fear of what may happen to us can be counterproductive.  It is normal to experience uncomfortable and anxiety, as we know that we face possible physical pain or emotional rejection.  Yet as St. John says in his First Letter, love is not yet perfect in the person who fears.  Fear is the opposite of love.  Fear prevents us from truly loving.  Fear of losing something we value causes us to be reluctant to love others and boldly proclaim the Good News.  To counteract that fear we must focus on the love, which God has already bestowed on us and the continuation of the pouring forth of that love for all eternity. 

   The message for us, today’s disciples of the Lord Jesus, is that being faithful to our Master-Teacher may be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the difficulties, just as grace far outweighs sin.  This message should be reassuring for us who seek to be followers of the Lord Jesus.  It is a very realistic message:  we will encounter rough times and even be persecuted, yet the Lord Jesus will be with us to strengthen us, cast out our fears, and give us the words to proclaim from the rooftops.  And the Good News we proclaim is that God’s grace is much, much more powerful than evil, sin, persecution, or any other difficulties we may encounter.