FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Jeremiah 20:10-13 | Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35 | Romans 5:12-15 | Matthew 10:26-33
On this day, we commemorate the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is an opportunity for us to contemplate the significance of speaking the truth, encountering God's love and mercy in the midst of widespread sin, and displaying unwavering courage in upholding the truth even in dangerous circumstances.
Amadee, a little girl came very early one morning to Jorge, her father, saying, “Which is worse, Papa, to tell a lie or to steal?” The Father replied that both were so sinful she could not tell which was worse. “Well, Papa,” replied Amadee, “I’ve been thinking a good deal about it, and I think it’s ever so much worse to lie than to steal.” “Why, my dear?” asked Jorge. “Well, you see Papa, it’s like this,” said Amadee. “If you steal a thing, you can take it back, unless you’ve eaten it, and if you’ve eaten it, you can pay for it; but a lie is forever.”
Those who are dedicated to doing good and questioning the established order will inevitably face significant opposition. In our First reading, Prophet Jeremiah delivers distressing news: Judah and Jerusalem will be conquered by the Babylonian king, and God's chosen people will endure a lengthy exile due to their disobedience and violation of their covenant with God. As a truthful messenger, Jeremiah did not proclaim what people wanted to hear, but rather what God had called him to speak about. Because he delivered a message that contradicted popular opinion, Jeremiah was labeled as a terrorist, arrested without proper authorization, and subjected to brutal torture and mistreatment in prison by Pashur, the chief governor of the temple. This represented a misuse of legal power or the manipulation of laws to undermine righteousness. Despite facing such perilous circumstances, Jeremiah did not lose hope but instead placed his complete trust in the Lord. He endured insults and cruelty with patience and humility. Although he felt anger towards his persecutors, he refrained from seeking personal revenge against them. Instead, he earnestly prayed to God, asking for them to receive just consequences for their actions.
Imagine entering a jewelry store with the intention of purchasing a diamond ring. As you approach the counter, the jeweler carefully lays out a black velvet cloth. On that dark surface, the dazzling diamond ring is positioned right at the center. Against the contrasting black backdrop, the diamond shines brilliantly, showcasing its exquisite beauty. In a similar way, we are unable to fully grasp the magnificence and abundance of God's love until we perceive it in relation to our own shortcomings and transgressions. It is when we view God's love against the backdrop of our sin that its true wonder and richness come into clear focus. Where sin abounds, God's grace is more.
The corruption of morality and the loss of one's moral direction can rapidly permeate society and even extend to the entire world, resembling the way a contagious disease spreads. People are influenced by the attitudes and examples set by others, and this kind of behavior shapes the culture, which in turn, shapes us. In Paul's letter to the Romans, he illustrates the overwhelming wave of sin that originated from a single individual and was transmitted from one generation to the next through cultural influence and personal example. However, in the midst of abundant sin, God's grace prevails in even greater abundance. Just as sin can proliferate through the actions of a few, so can love and grace spread through the self-sacrifice and love demonstrated by just one individual.
Father and son explorers Richard and Raymond, were on a jungle safari when suddenly a ferocious lion jumped in front of them. “Do not be afraid” Richard whispered. “Remember what we read in that book on wild cats? If you stand perfectly still and look the lion in the eye, it will turn and run.” “Sure, Dad” replied Raymond. “You’ve read the book, and I’ve read the book. But has the lion read the book?”
In the Gospel today, Jesus repeatedly reassures us with the words "Do not be afraid." As messengers of His teachings, we are called to exhibit courage. Our Lord challenges us to bring our faith into every aspect of our lives and boldly proclaim it to the world. Jesus, however, does not conceal the hardships and dangers we may encounter while bearing witness to Him. The powerful and oppressive forces may seek to intimidate us by enacting laws that criminalize dissent, employing defamation laws to silence criticism, or even unjustly imprisoning us on fabricated charges. They can inflict harm upon our loved ones, undermine our aspirations and dreams, seize our possessions, disrupt our daily lives and careers, and even pose threats to our personal well-being. Just as Jesus Himself was persecuted and rejected, we too may face similar challenges. However, Jesus provides a compelling reason for us not to fear, for in the end, light will triumph over darkness, truth will overcome falsehood, and genuine righteousness will be recognized as good and of divine origin. As Jesus declared, "For nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." Therefore, go forth now without fear and embrace your role as communicators of truth. Initiate the conversations that you have long recognized as necessary. Take a stand and speak out against corrupt governance and moral decay. Raise your voice from rooftops, express your thoughts in emails, share your convictions on Facebook and Twitter. Take the hands of those seated with you at the dining table and impart to them the profound truth that Jesus loves them in a way beyond their imagination. Do not allow fear to hinder you. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum