12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A

1st Reading: Jeremiah 20: 10-13

The “Confession of Jeremiah” reflects the interior dialogue of a prophet who gave his life as an authentic witness to God.  Jeremiah suffered at the hands of his own colleagues.  He was in great turmoil because he believed God ill-equipped him for his mission.  He felt inadequate – that he was not up to the impossible task at hand.  He felt duped and angry.  Yet he knew that God had called him to the prophetic life.  He was confident that the Lord remains faithful to those who are faithful to him.  We are all invited into Jeremiah’s trusting hymn of grateful praise   (Birmingham, W&W for Yr A, p. 429).

Jeremiah turns to God in prayer when he is overwhelmed and full of emotion, as most prophets do.  Margaret Guenther in The Practice of Prayer says, “I enjoy listening to prophets when they say I like to hear (that is, when their target is someone other than me), but I prefer to tune them out when they threaten my comfort.  Prophets can expect to be unpopular, to be opposed and even killed if they persist in their candor,”  (p. 36).  Consider the 2 men who were killed in Portland, OR when they tried to stop an anti-Muslim rant.  Their deaths saved the lives of the 2 women being bullied.  They are modern day prophets for us in their actions.

Who are our persecutors?  Does God give us strength in times of struggle?  How do you feel the Lord with you?  What helps us persist in trusting the Lord?

2nd Reading: Romans 5: 12-15

When trying to understand Paul here, it is important to understand the Jewish notion of “corporate personality” – sort of like our modern idea of an ecosystem in which everything in that system is mutually interdependent. Paul is talking about the social effects of evil – death coming to all of us as we have sinned “in Adam.”  This does not mean that Adam introduced into human life a hereditary trait that is henceforth transmitted biologically. It is more that we have all sinned in Adam because we have all sinned like Adam. Adam is that insecure, false, needy self that we are all like without Christ.

Death is also not to be seen in some crude mechanical way as a punishment for sin. The awful death that Paul is talking about is separation from God; such separation is sin, a turning away from the very source of life.  Physical death is a biological inevitability in an imperfect world – but it is also the final revelation of our utter aloneness before the forces of life and death. Without Christ, we are hopeless.  But Paul is reassuring us that God’s grace is much greater than our sin, our separation. With faith in Christ, we can overcome the chasm . . .

From Celebration, June, 2002 and R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu.

Sin can come in through a very small door – a moment of vanity, a selfish choice, an avoidance of compassion. It doesn’t take much energy. Sin can seem so easy; the failure to love can be ‘second nature’ to us – but it is our ‘false nature.’ Our first nature is to love and be loved. We can become insensitive, insecure, walking around in a fog of self-centeredness. But Jesus offers us another way – another door – a door wide enough to bring in love and life. Sin may give us many excuses to say no, but love makes us yearn to say yes. (Exploring the Sunday Readings,  June, 1999)

The Gospel: Matthew 10: 26-33

In Matthew 10: 16, Jesus says, “I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.” Jesus knew that the way of discipleship is and was a very countercultural way of life. Yet, in today’s passage he also assures us of God’s loving concern with every aspect of our being – even the hairs on our heads. The problem may be with us. We hold records of everything that can and does go wrong with our frail mortality. We cling to our insecurity and worry, instead of living fully a life of faith and hope. But when we begin to speak the truth of God’s love, its certainty grows in us. When we act on this truth, we are brought into Christ’s marvelous light.

(Exploring the Sunday Readings, June, 1999)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), a professor at the Union Theological Union in New York once wrote:  “Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable; and most of all, fear put hopelessness at the heart of life, while faith rejoices in its God.”           (Celebration, June, 2002)

Sparrows are what bird-watchers call ‘junk birds’ – birds so plentiful that them seem uninteresting, unworthy of much attention. But Jesus assures us that God cares for such things – and even cares for us unworthy humans. Jesus urges

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