Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time Opening Remarks:
Summer officially started on Wednesday, June 21. Schools are on break, and plans for outdoor activities are underway to lighten up, dress down, and have fun. But today’s readings are laden with heaviness and shades of Lenten themes. Interestingly, according to the Lectionary calendar of readings, the first reading for today is also used on Friday of the fifth week of Lent. Still, we can lighten up and keep our faith strong even during challenging times. St. Teresa of Avila, one of the great mystics and a doctor of the Church, had a reputation for speaking candidly to the Lord.
On one occasion, while traveling to visit one of her monasteries, she was thrown from her horse into a river. In response, Teresa remarked, “Dear Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few.”
Summary of Readings:
In our first reading, Jeremiah recounts the difficult experiences he faced when delivering God’s message, including being labeled a false prophet for speaking the truth and having his every word scrutinized by “friends” waiting for a chance to condemn him. He also received threats on his life. The Psalmist laments that zeal for the Lord makes him an outcast to his family. Today’s letter to the Romans opens on a truthful but gloomy note, “Sin entered the world and through sin, death… since all have sinned.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus attempts to calm His disciple’s fears by assuring them, “…those who kill the body cannot kill the soul.”
So, where is the good news today? Along with the everyday trials life hands us, death of a loved one, relationship breakups, health issues, financial stress, job pressures, and family members rejecting the faith (add your own), serving the Lord can result in persecution and being ostracized. However, Jesus was always truthful about His disciples sharing in His suffering, and in today’s Gospel, He assures us that there is nothing to fear.
Since the word of God is timeless good news that provides encouragement and guidance in every age, we can relate to real-life situations presented in today’s readings. And although today’s readings start by illustrating hardships, they do have a common (positive and uplifting) thread where in the end, things work out for the better because problems are handled with the Lord instead of apart from Him.
Today’s readings affirm that we have a God who not only deeply cares about our challenges but has the desire and power to do something to correct them.
1st Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13 Responsorial Psalm: 69:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 2nd Reading: Romans 5:12-15 Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33
Shout With Zeal:
After a long lament, the Psalmist (Psalm 69) admits that praising God with a contrite heart is a greater value than burnt sacrifices. He closes with a new song of praise and thanksgiving and leads the assembly in a hymn of rejoicing. “Let the heavens and the earth praise him…for God will save Zion and rebuild Judah… those who love His name will dwell in it.” Confidence in the Lord’s rescue and restoration for those in trouble is essential for our faith growth. That trust is not only a private, internal feeling but one that must be proclaimed with zeal to all who are within our earshot. This is what we, in our prophetic mission, are called by the Lord to do.
Paul’s initial teaching in today’s second reading is a reflection on the sin of Adam. Then he adds the magic word, “but.” “But” assures the reader that sin is not the final verdict — there is more to the story. Some of us seem to enjoy focusing on the speck in our (brothers/sisters) eye and ignore the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:5). We judge others by their words and actions but are assured that God judges us by our intentions which we can easily excuse. Paul takes the higher road, “But the gift (of God) is not like thetransgression… through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, acquittal comes to all.” So, our faith and hope are rooted in Jesus, who, through His Church, frees us from the bondage of sin.
To experience what Paul is writing about, do not put off celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is where the Lord welcomes us, forgives us, and gives us the grace to be conformed more to Christ.
In today’s Gospel, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, ready to take up the cross with the glory because we cannot have one without the other. The heading in the Bible for this Gospel passage reads, “Courage Under Persecution.” By telling His disciples to do three things, Proclaim, Proclaim, Proclaim, Jesus is answering the question, “Do I obey God or please people,” raised in our first reading. “What I say to you…proclaim on the housetops” (Matthew 10:27). Proclaim without fear, Proclaim without ambiguity, Proclaim without animosity. Proclaim with word, Proclaim with deed, Proclaim with love.
Finally, Jesus reminds us that our public profession of boldness, faith, and truth, regardless of the consequences, is directly connected to our eternal salvation. Our Lord will welcome those of us who speak of all we have heard, learned, and lived. But (here is that word again) our denial of Him before others will bring Jesus’ denial of us at the time of judgment. That was not a threat; it was Jesus’ way of describing the just nature of God.
Closing Comment and Question:
The cross is our answer to whom we say Christ is. The vertical beam symbolizes our intimate personal relationship with the Lord. The horizontal beam expresses our willingness to be Christ-like as we take Christ to others.
How can you continue to use your gifts to make your faith in Christ contagious?