REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR THE TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A

OVERCOMING FEAR AND EMBRACING COURAGE IN THE FACE OF OPPOSITION AND PERSECUTION

First Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 68(69):8-10,14,17,33-35
Second Reading: Romans 5:12-15
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:26-33
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In a world often fraught with uncertainty and adversity, coupled with the presence of evildoers around us, fear often looms like a formidable giant, threatening to paralyze our dreams and shatter our spirits; at times, this can cast a long and daunting shadow over our lives. Sadly, this may hold us captive, inhibiting our growth, and preventing us from embracing the boundless possibilities that lie before us. However, in the depths of our trepidation, there exists an unwavering invitation from our Saviour to relinquish fear and cultivate courage, faith, and trust in God. It is this yearning that beckons us to examine the profound words of Jesus and the resolute example of Jeremiah—a call to eliminate fear from our lives and embrace a courageous trust in God. Put differently, today’s readings beckon us to embrace courage, trust, and unwavering faith in the face of adversity. They remind us that even in the darkest of times, we are never alone, for the divine presence walks beside us, illuminating our path and strengthening our spirits.

Taking the First Reading (from Jeremiah 20:10-13) as our point of departure, we witness the prophet’s anguish and persecution, yet amidst his struggles, he finds solace in the Lord’s unwavering support. Jeremiah expresses his frustration and anguish over the rejection and persecution he faced due to his prophetic calling. He vividly describes how he became a laughingstock and object of mockery, as his message of impending judgment and exile was met with resistance and disbelief. Despite the overwhelming opposition – how his adversaries sought to silence his voice, and the personal toll it took on him, Jeremiah’s faith in God remained steadfast. Jeremiah recognizes that God’s truth cannot be suppressed, and he must continue to proclaim it, regardless of the consequences. What strikes me about this passage is Jeremiah’s unwavering commitment to God’s calling, even in the face of immense opposition and personal suffering. He is honest about his struggles, pouring out his anguish before the Lord, yet he ultimately finds strength and solace in God’s presence. Jeremiah acknowledges the indomitable power of God. In the depths of his despair, he turns to the Almighty, who becomes his refuge and source of strength.

In a nexus, the Responsorial Psalm, taken from Psalms 68(69):8-10,14,17,33-35, echoes the sentiment of Jeremiah’s experience. It portrays a plea to God for salvation and deliverance from the depths of suffering. In our own lives, we may encounter moments of loneliness, pain, and uncertainty, but we can take solace in the truth that the Lord hears our cries and will extend His mercy and love to us. In our vulnerability, we find strength as we surrender to the divine providence that uplifts us and carries us through.

The theme of embracing courage, trust, and unwavering faith in God even in the face of adversity and fear continues to resound in the Second Reading (Romans 5:12-15). In this passage, St. Paul unveils the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice. Romans 5:12 explains that sin entered the world through one man, Adam, which resulted in death and fear. Fear is a consequence of sin’s presence in our lives. By acknowledging this truth, we understand that fear is not part of God’s original design for humanity. God’s desire is for us to live in freedom from fear and experience His abundant life. While sin brought fear and death into the world, verse 15 highlights the incredible power of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. It states that God’s grace and the gift that came through Christ overflowed to many. This grace is a game-changer in our battle against fear. It is through Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection that we can find forgiveness, freedom from sin, and the strength to overcome fear. In other words, Romans 5:15 encourages us to embrace God’s support in overcoming fear. It reminds us that if the trespass of one man (Adam) resulted in death for many, how much more did God’s grace overflow to the many through Jesus Christ. This verse assures us that God’s support is abundant and far greater than any fear we may face. When we place our trust in Him, His grace empowers us to conquer fear and live victoriously.

Similarly, we hear the invitation from our Saviour in the Gospel Reading (Matthew 10:26-33) three times: “Do not be afraid…” This passage imparts a profound message of trust and courage. To understand this passage better, it is pertinent to first unravel its sociological context. During Jesus’ time, the Jewish community lived under the Roman empire, with varying levels of religious freedom and persecution. Jews faced social and religious pressures, including hostility from some factions within their own community and potential persecution from Roman authorities. This sociological context influenced the message Jesus conveyed to His disciples. Thus, in verse 26, Jesus urges His disciples not to be afraid (φοβηθῆτε – phobēthēte) of those who oppose them. He emphasizes that nothing concealed will remain hidden, and what is whispered will be proclaimed openly. This instruction encourages the disciples to be courageous in their mission, not succumbing to fear (φόβος – phobos) and being willing to openly share the teachings they have received from Jesus. In this vein, Jesus reassures His disciples of God’s care and protection. He uses the imagery of sparrows being sold for a penny, emphasizing their seemingly insignificant value. However, He highlights that not one sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge and care. This reassurance underscores God’s watchful eye and concern for even the smallest details of His creation. Jesus then emphasizes the immeasurable value of the disciples themselves, reminding them that they are worth more than many sparrows.

Today’s readings remind us of the challenges, difficulties, and even the persecutions we may encounter when following God’s call. Like Jeremiah, we may face opposition, ridicule, and even isolation for standing up for what is right and proclaiming God’s truth. We might even find ourselves in a setting quite hostile to our Christian faith and core values; however, we are encouraged to remain steadfast with unwavering faith, trusting that God is with us in the midst of our struggles. Therefore, in our darkest moments, God’s presence and faithfulness are our source of strength. We can take solace in the knowledge that God will sustain us, empower us, and ultimately bring about justice and redemption. May we find inspiration in Jeremiah’s example and allow God’s fire to burn within us, propelling us forward to fulfill our purpose and faithfully proclaim God’s truth, regardless of the challenges we may face.

Again, dear friends in Christ, as we reflect on these readings, let us draw strength from the examples set before us. Let us be like Jeremiah, unwavering in our convictions and finding refuge in God’s presence. Let us be like the psalmist, seeking solace in the knowledge that God hears our cries and will lift us from the depths of despair. Let us embrace the immeasurable grace bestowed upon us through Christ’s sacrifice as stated by St. Paul, and let us toot out all fear (φόβος – phobos) and find courage in the promise that God knows, cares for, and values each one of us intimately, as Christ encourages us in the gospel. As we embark upon a new week, may we carry these powerful messages in our hearts. Let us face whatever challenges that lie ahead with unwavering faith and trust, knowing that we are never alone. The journey may not always be easy, but we can rest assured that the God who created us, redeemed us, and sanctifies us daily will empower us to overcome every obstacle – therefore, do not be afraid!

(CLICK HERE FOR NEXT SUNDAY’S REFLECTION: REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME)

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(CLICK HERE FOR HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR MONDAY OF THE TWELFTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME)

 

Shalom!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo.
nozickcjoe@gmail.com / fadacjay@gmail.com
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?

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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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Nwabude Nwamaka
Nwabude Nwamaka
3 months ago

Amen.

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