TWELFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR June 22, 2008

 Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33

What we hear in the dark, we are to tell in the light. What is whispered in our ears is to be proclaimed from the roof tops.  For the Disciples of Christ hearing the good news of God in Jesus has the responsibility to proclaim. Like Jesus and Jeremiah we have the duty to proclaim the good news to the unbelieving world. No one likes to hear the truth. If one speaks of peace during war, mercy and forgiveness after the violence, justice in the corrupt world is considered an insane activity.  The follower of Jesus who speaks will be considered a laughing stock in today-s community.

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Jeremiah recalls an event that took place when the Lord God called the great prophet Jeremiah as His spokesman to warn the people of the coming judgment that awaited Israel because of their sins. The unbelievers laughed at Jeremiah. They plotted against him so that they could silence him.  Frustrated with the people who lived in sin, Jeremiah decided to keep quiet, to stop talking on behalf of the Almighty Lord God.  But Jeremiah was burning with such an intense fire within his heart that he could no longer keep quiet. He had to speak on behalf of the Lord. Today’s Second Reading, the Letter of Paul to the Romans, reminds us that by the grace of God the Father, we received a free gift through Jesus Christ. Through the sin of disobedience of one man, Adam, all his descendants were called to suffer eternal damnation. But, thanks to the righteous act of one Man, Jesus Christ, His perfect sacrifice as the Lamb of GodThe reading from the Gospel of Matthew advises us not to fear men.  Jesus asks the twelve disciples not to be afraid. As disciples we stand with Jesus entrusting ourselves to him. Jesus reassures us of our value in God-s eyes and he will protect us as he does with the birds of the air in a loving embrace.

Who is Jesus?  And who are we?  These are the two questions we must ask ourselves when we read the gospel for today’s liturgy.  Who is Jesus?  He is the One who speaks to us!  “What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light.”  Jesus is the Word of the Father, he whom the Father begets and conceives eternally in the Spirit of Love!  Jesus is this Man, who is also and firstly God, but who is our Mediator with the Father:  it is through Jesus and in Jesus that the Father makes us his adoptive sons, heirs with his only Son. Who are we?  We are those who speak to the whole world the same Word that we have heard, in Jesus, from the Father!  “. . . utter in the light;  and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops.”  Because if we are adoptive sons of the Father, and heirs with Christ, then we are also, in a certain way, mediators of the Father’s Word, the Word that is none other than Jesus himself.  We are those through whom other men and women can also become adoptive sons of God in Jesus Christ!

Jesus tells us not to be worried of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. The history of the church is filled with examples where people have stood for Jesus and sacrificed their lives. A prominent example was when Archbishop Oscar Romero was gunned down in the middle of celebrating Mass by the military rulers of El Salvador, to be followed some years later by the brutal and sadistic murder of six Jesuit priests dragged from their beds in the middle of the night.  All that these men did was to draw attention to the many injustices being perpetrated against the poor and powerless in their society.  There are many others who have died silently and are known to Jesus alone. They can be found, for instance, in the history of the Church in China, Japan and Korea where thousands have shed their blood in the name of the Gospel.  It has been said that there have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in any other since the time of Jesus.

Jesus uses the example of the sparrows, a bird seemingly worthless.  A buyer certainly can have a good bargain while purchasing them. Yet God is concerned about them and they will not be lost without Father’s wish. Jesus wants to tell his disciples that much greater concern is shown towards them by the Father.  It is quite an illusion, which we sometimes live under, to think that the perfect Christian is someone who is loved and admired by all.  On the contrary, such a person is likely to be bitterly hated “for my name’s sake”. To be a fully committed Christian involves loving others with the same love that Christ showed for us but it is no guarantee whatever that we will be loved in return.  We are not Christians in order to be loved and looked up to but to proclaim by word and example the vision of a fully human life that Jesus taught us.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we do have a responsibility to stand up and be counted.  And, thank God, many are still doing so.  “If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of others, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.  But the one who disowns me in the presence of others, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.” At the same time, we are assured of God’s protection and help. The greatest danger is not the loss of our lives, although some people will be prepared to make any compromise to survive physically.  As Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  The greatest fear is not that we may be killed but that we may be seduced into betraying those values on which our integrity as human persons depends.  To save our “bodies” at the expense of Truth, at the expense of Love, at the expense of Justice, at the expense of Freedom, at the expense of Human Solidarity – this is the real danger.  That is the real death.

This is a common reaction to prophets, as in the case of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  It makes it easier for people not to have to listen to their message.  In spite of all, however, Jeremiah knew that God and Truth were upholding him.  “The Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure.”

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