The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time June 25, 2017
Jeremiah 20, 1013 + Psalm 69 + Romans 5, 12-15 + Matthew 1o, 26-33
St Joseph Parish, Norman, OK
Matthew’s Gospel before the Passion is a series of discourses. The first is the Sermon on the Mount which describes the Father who is Blessed with instructions on how to become more like the one in whose images we are created. The second discourse which we pick up today is sometimes called the “Mission” discourse. Preparing to send out the disciples to share in his mission, Jesus speaks of the tough demands of that mission. Three times he tells them not to fear, because he knows from his own experience what fear can do to the human heart. He also tells them how to resist fear and build up their courage.
That fear must be replaced by faith, but not the kind of faith that is a comforting illusion that all is well. The faith Jesus describes is a kind of wisdom and trust that life is full of risk, of insecurity, yet real disciples can and will rejoice in it anyway. What Jesus proposes is trust that God is watching. Now every time I remind myself of this promise, I am suddenly back in grade school and Sister Mary of Holy Discipline is pointing at me say: “God is watching you.” That feeling of being watched is not comfortable; but the feeling of being
watched over” is comforting, strengthening, encouraging. This the feeling gives hope that can replace fear.
Few of us are ever likely to be beaten, tortured, or killed because we acknowledge Jesus and continue his mission of reconciliation, mercy, and justice. Yet, everyone who does knows the pain that comes from the whispers of those who criticize and judge, who mock, malign and accuse. Everyone who hears these words of Jesus today is called to be fearless and hopeful in acknowledging Jesus Christ in our families, at work, and in wider social situations. We must find the right words to speak and the wisdom to listen. Married people struggling with fidelity, young people at war with hormones, the disabled longing to be recognized as people, men and women searching for their sexual identity, the poor who are helpless and angry. All of these people need someone to listen and then respond with the voice of grace and love.
Old Jeremiah, that relentless truth teller, turns to God when he is discouraged like a mighty warrior. He does not attack those who whisper about him or seek revenge. He just let’s God take care of it all and protect him. What he asks of God is not to escape from his enemies who will be with him till the end, but that he may not despair and give up.
Once upon a time there was a mouse that had a crippling fear of cats. A magician took pity on it and turned it into a cat. But then it became afraid of dogs. So, the magician turned it into a dog. Then it became afraid of panthers. So, the magician turned it into a panther. Then it became afraid of hunters. At this point the magician gave up. He turned it back into a mouse saying, “Nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse.” My friends, we have to have the heart of Jesus Christ. When we do, there is nothing to fear.