XII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
jeremiah 20:10-13; romans 5:12-15; matthew 10:26-33
in march this year, fr tomy mathew was stabbed at his church in melbourne while preparing for mass by a man who said he should not celebrate mass because he was indian. last july in northern france, two men (who said they were from the isis) slit the throat of an 84-year-old priest, fr jacques hamel, during morning mass.
christians, priests and laity, are facing increasing persecution. people who proclaim the values of the gospel, people who stand up for what is right are inevitably ill-treated and persecuted. some give up; many fight on.
today’s first reading tells us about jeremiah who had a difficult mission: to denounce the abominations of the people and to warn them of GOD’s wrath. his friends discredited and denounced him; the army council threw him into prison and threatened him with death.
perhaps, human that he was, jeremiah was afraid… but he did not allow fear to write his script. he refused to be intimidated. what sustained jeremiah was the profound belief that GOD cared for him and was on his side: «the lord is with me as a dread warrior.»
the gospel is a continuation of jesus’ commissioning of the apostles. in the verses preceding today’s text, he has warned them about imminent persecution.
now he tells them to preach without fear: «do not be afraid.» but how can the apostles not be afraid in the face of persecution?
the antidote to fear is GOD’s loving care! jesus uses the example of a sparrow to emphasise that the father cares deeply. sparrows were sold two for a penny and five for two pennies. «not one will fall to the ground without your father’s will.» the apostles are worth much more than a sparrow (the one thrown in free?).
jeremiah and the apostles could face their persecutors with courage because they were deeply aware of GOD’s love for them.
we are called to be fearless prophetic voices—people who denounce what is wrong and stand up for what is right—in our places of work, in our communities… everywhere.
am i willing to acknowledge jesus despite intimidation? what are the fears which keep me from witnessing to jesus and his values? do i believe that GOD cares for me?