This Sunday will be the twelfth Sunday in ordinary time. The Scripture readings this week invite us to preach Christ through our words and lives without fear. It is not always easy to preach and bear witness to the Gospel, but God’s grace is always there to guide us.
In the first reading, we see that the prophet Jeremiah prophesied at a time when the people lived in sin and refused to return to the Lord. They not only refused to return to the Lord, but turned against the prophet when they heard his preaching and plotted to kill him. The prophet was confused and shouted his answer: “You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced; you were too strong for me and you prevailed” (Jer. 20:7). Jeremiah knew the danger because he spoke the words given him by Yahweh. He tried to bring the people back to God and to return to their faith in His covenant, but Jeremiah was met with active hostility. Nevertheless, Jeremiah was confident that God would not let his enemies overcome him. He declared, “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty Champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” In spite of the danger, Jeremiah continued to do God’s work because he was convinced and committed to God’s call.
In the second reading, Paul assures the early Christians that they need not be afraid of opposition because they share in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. With these words of encouragement Paul explains why, in spite of the bitter experience of opposition, their work will succeed. Because Jesus, by His death and Resurrection, has conquered sin, Jesus’ followers will ultimately succeed in carrying out His work, despite the opposition they encounter. Paul describes Jesus as the new Adam. Where the first Adam brought sin and death into the world, the second Adam, Jesus, brings grace and life to the world. Paul tells us that we have died with Christ to the law, to sin, to self and to the world, and we need not be afraid of those who oppose us, for we are united with Him who conquered sin and death.
The Gospel reading is an instruction to Jesus’ disciples as He sends them out to carry on His mission of preaching and healing. He asks the disciples to live simply and expect opposition and rejection. After having predicted opposition and persecution, Jesus encourages them to stand firm. Three times they are urged, “Do not fear! “Do not be afraid!” Instead of shrinking from their task, they are to proclaim the Gospel boldly because they will be protected, just as Jeremiah was assured of God’s protection. Jesus then presents before them the image of the sparrow to reinforce God’s guidance.
In our life, personal or family, we encounter many challenges and fears. Sometimes we are afraid that we will make wrong choices. We are afraid of what others will say when we stand up for Jesus, live our faith. We are afraid of what the future will bring for us and our children. We are afraid of growing old. Sometimes we are afraid of what bad health will bring us. At the root of all of these fears is the fear of loss. Every fear we have is grounded in the knowledge that we have something or someone to lose. One can lose his or her job, family, house, money, health and even life itself. Rejection and loss are the basis of our fears. But we forget one thing: whatever trouble or crisis affects us, God understands it better than we understand ourselves. Our Heavenly Father knows exactly what is happening and what to do. What a great comfort that God knows our challenges and will stand by us no matter what. So, the next time fear grips us and uncertainties surround our lives, we need to remember that being faithful to Christ wherever we meet Him in this life is much more important than our fear of rejection and loss. Also we need to remember that God cares — He loves us and we are precious to Him: “You are worth more than many sparrows.”