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Twelfth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33.
1/ Reading I: RSV Jeremiah 20:10 For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him.” 11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. 12 O LORD of hosts, who triest the righteous, who seest the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause. 13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 5:12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned — 13 sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
I. THEME: Fear not! God’s power overcomes all worldly powers.
People are feared by many things in life: suffering, pain, lost, prison, sins’ result, and especially death because death will take away all what people have. But God demands people not to fear because fear causes people not to live according to the truth to witness for God. Fear cause people not to live according to God’s standards; but are pleased with human standards. Fear makes people to be slavery for their flesh, the world, and the devil. To overcome fear, people need to have a strong faith in God and His power; at the same time people also need to know “the steps of value” of what they possess.
Today readings provide us the reasons why we don’t need to be feared of anything. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah, though feared of surrounding enemies; but he overcame fear because of his strong faith in God. He believed God will save him from all sufferings and make his enemies ashamed and humiliated. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Romans not to be feared even sins because Christ rendered sins ineffective due to His blood poured out on the cross. Moreover, His blood has power to sanctify and to give countless blessings to people. In the Gospel, Jesus advised to His disciples not to be feared of anything because He won all things. The disciples must firmly believe in God’s providential love to witness for the truths.
1/ Reading I: God has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.
1.1/ Jeremiah is opposed by Pashhur, the priest: As God’s prophet, Jeremiah must say what God wants to say to the Judah kings, the priests and the Jerusalem people. The priest Pashhur, Immer’s son, the chief officer in the house of the Lord, did not only listen to Jeremiah’s saying, but he also let people beat him up and fetter him at the Benjamin’s gate, that is the Upper Gate of the House of God. The “Terror on every side” is the name which Jeremiah called Pashhur after this man seized, beat up and fettered the prophet (Jer 20:3).
Jeremiah prophesized about the Pashhur’s and all Judahites’ destiny as follows: “4 For thus says the Lord: Indeed, I will hand you over to terror, you and all your friends. Your own eyes shall see them fall by the sword of their enemies. All Judah I will hand over to the power of the king of Babylon, who shall take them captive to Babylon or strike them down with the sword. 5 All the wealth of this city, all its resources and its valuables, all the treasures of the kings of Judah, I will hand over to their enemies, who will plunder it and carry it away to Babylon. 6 You, Pashhur, and all the members of your household shall go into exile. To Babylon you shall go; there you shall die and be buried, you and all your friends, because you have prophesied lies to them” (Jer 20:4-6).
All what prophet Jeremiah prophesized were fulfilled: Judah was felt to the Babylon enemies in 587 B.C., Jerusalem was completely destroyed, all precious things of the Temple and the city were confiscated and brought to Babylon. The king, all the officers and the priests were on Babylon exile, of course Pashhur included, and he died on exile.
1.2/ Prophet Jeremiah found strength in God: When Jeremiah must confront with so many oppositions from his family, friends, priests, the king and his officers, the prophet knew he can’t win over his wicked enemies without God’s strength, so Jeremiah believed and offered his prayers to God: “11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore, my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.”
The prophet knew God has power to punish and the strength to liberate the righteous, so he prayed: “12 O LORD of hosts, who tries the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause. 13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.”
2/ Reading II: Christ liberates people from sin and death.
2.1/ Christ liberates people from sin: One question which is raised by many people: “Why did God punish all people because one disobedient sin of Adam?” St. Paul answered this question by comparing Adam with Christ. He reasoned as followed: “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” But Adam’s sin can’t be compared with God’s free gift; “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man, Jesus Christ abounded for many.” Christ is compared as the new Adam. He came to take away all results of sin caused by the old Adam.
However, not only Adam sinned; but all people sinned. St. Paul said: “13 sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” All people know that the laws must exist before the sin; but the laws only existed from Moses’ time when God gave the Ten Commandments for the Israelites. Why did St. Paul condemn people as sinners before the laws were promulgated? He might base on the natural law, as he mentioned on Rom 1:20-21.
2.2/ God gives grace through only one person, Jesus Christ: The Church calls Adam’s sin as the necessary and blessing sin in the Exultet chant of the Easter Vigil, because of that sin we have Christ to come and to remain with people. He comes not only to redeem but also to reveal God’s mysteries, and because of His works of salvation we receive graces upon graces.
Since Christ poured out His blood to redeem us, we are no longer feared the sins’ results; because from now on we have a way to eliminate them by using the sacrament of Reconciliation. We shall not fear even death, the result of sin; because if sins are cancelled, the result of sins are also cancelled. We have a hope to live forever with Christ in heaven.
3/ Gospel: You are of more value than many sparrows.
3.1/ Three necessary attitudes of Christ’s disciples: To become Christ’s faithful disciple, one must have three following attitudes:
(1) Be ready to accept all sufferings: Jesus said: “If they persecuted me, they would also persecute you.” Jesus’ disciples shall certainly be persecuted because they persecuted and killed Him. Jesus wants His disciples to clearly remember this point: “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household!” (Mt 10:25).
During preaching or doing apostolic works, Jesus’s disciple shall certainly meet criticizers, opponents and persecutors. The simple reason is the disciples said things that worldly people didn’t want to listen, and the truth usually hurts. For examples: The disciple said people must absolutely be faithful in the familial vocation while some of his audience divorced or separated; they teach children must sacrifice to return favors to their parents while many of their audience sent their parents to nursing home; they teach people must be ready to have children as many as possible while their audience only want one or two or no children at all.
(2) Have no fear of people: If a disciple fears to displease people, to be criticized or opposed, he shall not speak the truth which he is called to preach; in opposition, he shall talk in a way which pleases his audience, even though this thing doesn’t belong to Jesus’ teaching. This is the reason why Jesus teaches His disciples: “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops.”
When witnessing for the truth, the disciples could pay a dear price. They may even have to sacrifice their own life as in the cases of the holy martyrs, who were ready to pour out their blood to witness for the truth because they believed God shall return the glorious bodies to them and let their souls to live forever.
(3) Must believe in God’s providence: To help His disciples to understand this point, Jesus gives them two examples. First, the sparrow. Jesus said: “29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will… 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Secondly, the hairs on the head. Jesus said: “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” The hairs on people’s head are so much and falling down daily. If such a meaningless hair falling down daily and is concerned by God, how much more is God’s concern for His disciples?
In God’s providence, suffering is the mean God uses to test people’s faith and love for Him. If people are feared and avoid suffering, they do not demonstrate their faith and love for God.
3.2/ The reward for those who is faithful and witnessed for the truth: Jesus clearly said these words to His disciples: “32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
Those who have no courage to witness for God’s name and to preach the truths which Jesus teaches; they aren’t Jesus’ disciples. On the Last Day, Christ shall not consider them as His disciples before His Father.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must practice so that we shall not be feared of anything in our life because God won over all things. Sufferings and persecutions shall certainly come; but they are only opportunities for us to demonstrate our faith and love for God. They also help us to train our virtues.
– When we have no fear of anything, we begin to live and to live fully because we completely believe in God’s providential love; at that time, the devil and the world shall fear us.
– Everyone of us has a duty to demonstrate our faith and love for God. Let us overcome all fears to live according to the truth and to witness for God before people.