Father Donald Senior, CP

June 25: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jer 20:10-13; Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33


I hope all those who hear the readings for this Sunday will be in good spirits and enjoying the June sunshine. The readings, however, are not so sunny. Led by the lament of the prophet Jeremiah, the readings today confront the reality of evil in our world, an aspect of the Bible that co-exists along with its sense of beauty and profound hope.

The prophet Jeremiah lived in the late seventh century, a time of great turbulence in Jerusalem and its surrounding region of Judea. Soon Judea would be overrun by the rising power of Babylon and Israel’s beloved Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Jeremiah’s warnings to his countrymen were ignored and, even worse, Jeremiah was hounded and attacked for speaking the truth at a time when people preferred not to hear it. He cries out in anguish as he is denounced and betrayed by his former friends and finds himself the subject of their vengeance.

Jeremiah’s laments were incorporated into Israel’s sacred writings only after his own violent death at the hands of his enemies. Reading the prophet’s laments, like this one in our first reading, we understand the origin of the word "Jeremiad," cries from the heart of one who bears great suffering amid difficult times.

There is another note in Jeremiah’s cry of lament — namely a tenacious trust in God’s protective mercy. "But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion. … The Lord … has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked."

The Psalm response also reflects a Jeremiah-type mood. The psalmist cries out, "For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face. ... I have become an outcast to my brethren, a stranger to my children." Here, too, hope emerges in a dark moment. "Lord, in your great love, answer me." "In your great kindness answer me with your constant help. … In your great mercy turn toward me."

These biblical laments and prayers of trust echo the Gospel message. The selection for this Sunday is taken from the mission discourse of Matthew. Jesus sends out his disciples to preach the Gospel and to heal but he realizes that they will also suffer the rejection and misunderstanding that he himself has experienced from his determined opponents.

Jesus soberly warns them, "do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." They should "fear" and reverence the One who has power over body and soul — the almighty God whose providence stands over all life. The God revealed by Jesus is also a God of tender mercy whose provident love envelops every individual. In fact, they are "worth more than many sparrows" … "even the hairs of your head are counted."

I remember seeing some years ago an interview with Pope John Paul II on a plane as he was traveling for a visit to Turkey. Some radical groups in Turkey had vowed to attack the pope while he was there. A journalist asked if he had any anxieties about the visit.

The pope responded in his Polish-tinged English: "Love is greater as death." Here was the message of the Gospel for today in shorthand. Love, God’s love above all, is more powerful than any form of evil or death.

The last few weeks have been filled with more than their quota of human woes: acts of violence and terrorism against innocent people; crude public discourse and deception at the highest levels of our government; wanton violence on our city streets; ongoing starvation of tens of thousands of children in the Sudan. Like Jeremiah we can easily find reason to lament.

But our Scriptures for today urge us to keep our moral footing even when surrounded by so much evil and death. We must not close our eyes to it or act as if it were not there. Rather, by drawing deeply on our trust in God’s prevailing love and, because of that, we must summon our courage to oppose death in all its forms.


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  • father donald senior