Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 25, 2017
Reading 1JER 20:10-13
Homily— June 24 & 25, 2017
This morning, (Saturday morning) I had Fr. Francis celebrating the 8 a.m. Mass while I took a walk with my rosary in hand. I was thinking of Jesus comment to the Twelve, “Fear no one.” I deliberately chose to walk down to Wilson Street where a man was shot a week ago and to pray for him and for the neighborhood. All was quiet and I was not afraid.
In the first reading we hear from Jeremiah who was born into a family of priests and called to be a prophet. What is a prophet? A prophet is someone called by God to read the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel. A prophet is someone deeply in touch with contemporary reality, one who is loving and courageous enough to expose what is contrary to the will of God as well as galvanize others to believe in and work to create a Gospel alternative. Now that’s a job description set up to antagonize just about everybody.
This reading comes from Jeremiah’s “fifth confession,” the cry of a disgruntled, impassioned man struggling with faithfulness. Jeremiah’s confessions are perhaps best summarized by the interior conflict he described just before the beginning of today’s reading. Jeremiah complains: “The word of the Lord has brought me reproach and derision all day long. I say I will not mention him…but then it is as if fire is burning in my heart…I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” (Jeremiah 20:8-9)
As I think of Jeremiah taking on the added responsibility of a prophet I think of Bishop Zinkula as he takes on the added role of being the Bishop of Davenport. Let us remember him in our prayers.
In today’s second reading, Paul is addressing one of the most basic questions of religion: how evil came to be so prevalent in a good creation. One answer from “The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of The Church states “The consequences of sin perpetuate the structures of sin…which grow stronger, spread and become sources of other sins”.(#119) Examples of structures of sin include racism, materialism, an all-consuming profit motive, and the drive for power. Paul offers a crucial truth that could well be our theme for all of Ordinary Time and beyond: “For if by the transgression of the one the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.(Romans 5:15)
What an important and central truth of our faith! God’s grace is stronger and more prevalent than sin. Sometimes we don’t sin because of the fear of the consequences but even better is when we don’t sin because we know of God’s great love for us. We don’t want to “hurt” or disappoint one who loves us so much.
Let us come back to Jesus bold statement in the gospel “Fear no one.” Yet, in the next breath he tells us to “be afraid of the one who can destroy/both soul and body.” Does Jesus contradict himself? No, not really. He is helping us sort out fear. We need not fear when we choose to live and “speak in the light” and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Proclaiming the gospel can bring frightening results, for sure. People may misunderstand us, scorn us, turn on us. Certainly this happened to Jesus. We can overcome this fear however. We know that when we align ourselves with Jesus and “proclaim on the housetops” what he has revealed to us, we are not alone. Our greatest source of audacity—of proclaiming Jesus’ Good News and acting boldly—is the assurance that God has every hair on our head counted. My hair takes less time to count! God counts us worthy to be disciples of the divine Son, and even if others try to “kill the body,” God will protect and bring to everlasting Life those who are faithful.
We do need to fear when we choose infidelity and denial of Jesus in any form. This kills. This death we ought to fear. This death is not from some outside entity, but comes from inside ourselves. This death is our own doing; it is choosing our own selfish interests above acknowledging our identity in Christ and being consistent with his call to be faithful disciples. This death destroys our joy and balance in this life and threatens our eternal happiness.
What we need to do is to keep Jesus’ continued Presence before us and act accordingly. Fear of being unfaithful, self-centered, and totally self-reliant is actually healthy and life-giving. Jesus challenges us to fear what is really death-dealing: denial of him. The choice before us is to choose him. Choosing him will free us from the one thing that can kill us. Choosing him will give us Life.