Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - June 25, 2017
The tragic portrait of the Jeremiah in today’s first reading presents us with a story of deception, sorry and terror that have brought this great prophet to the edge of despair. Despite everything that has gone wrong for him, he maintains confidence in God. “Terror on every side!” is the jeering of Jeremiah’s critics, almost making fun of the prophet’s characteristic gloomy predictions. “Let us denounce him!” – in the way that he constantly describes the behaviour of others. Even those he thought to be his friends abandon him:'Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.' Jesus was treated in exactly the same way by Pharisees and Scribes constantly trying to catch him out in violation of the Law. They even go so far as to use sick people placed on Jesus’ path on the Sabbath to see if he will heal him. They ask him if it is right or not to give taxes to Caesar – where a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer will be equally incriminating.
But Jeremiah’s obvious confidence in his God tells us that his detractors and attackers will not prevail. “But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.” Ultimately, Jeremiah knows, truth and justice will prevail no matter what some people try to do. It is a belief that we need to remember ourselves.
How many times in the Gospels do we hear Jesus telling people to "Fear not!"? The passage in Matthew 10:26-32 follows Jesus' commissioning of the twelve apostles to preach to the whole world. It's opening words are striking: "Have no fear; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known" [Mt. 10:26ff.]. Jesus goes on to warn the apostles that their new mission will inevitably bring persecution and suffering. There are some fears that are inappropriate for a disciple of Jesus, and other fears that are quite appropriate.
What is worth fearing? Jesus warns his followers about those who can harm the soul. To what does this refer today? To those people or situations who can dehydrate the spirit, crushing it and sapping it of life, killing hopes and dreams, destroying faith and joy. Also to be feared are the consequences of denying Jesus. Most of the time, those who dehydrate the spirit and kill hope and joy are not 'bad' people! In fact, they are often very good people, and yes, even 'church' people! Perhaps we have even harmed the souls of others through our lack of faith, hope and joy. How often have we denied Jesus through our own reluctance to talk about him and give witness to him, for fear of excluding others?
Fear can be an essential part of faith even though faith rules out anxiety. It is only through struggle that we arrive at a mature and lasting peace, and live in the light. We let no one intimidate us! In today's Gospel, Jesus tells his followers to be open and honest. In the end everything will come to light, even those matters yet lying in the shadows. Therefore it doesn’t pay to cover anything up.
The meaning of divine providence
When we say "divine providence," we are referring to the name of God, especially as Father and Creator. Providence is often expressed only as a design for the universe in which all is ordered and formed, as care for lilies and sparrows. The problem arises when the experience of the unpredictable, the disordered, and the misshapen dominate, or seem to dominate, and when we feel alone in a disordered universe.
At such moments, we ask deeper questions: Is there a God? Does that God care for us? How is there providence if evil prevails and the innocent suffer? Teaching about "providence" is consistently found in both the Old and the New Testaments. God's will governs all things. God loves all people, desires the salvation of all and God's paternal providence extends to all nations.
This does not mean believers are to sit around idly. Rather, they realize that trust in God leads to a balanced response to the challenges of life in this world. "Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:32-33).
Besides teachings on cross-bearing and obedience to the Father's will, Jesus taught about God's providential care for His children, on not being anxious for the future: "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" Jesus, in Matthew, is referring to the trusting disposition God's children are to have.
People who sees reality permeated by the providence of God gradually becomes known and loved as a wise person. Unlike worldly folk who are consumed with the pursuit of food or clothing, disciples and friends of God are to seek first a relationship with God, knowing God's will and giving evidence of God's purpose in their lives. If we can begin to believe that God will provide generously, we, in turn, can be detached and generous in sharing our resources with others.
In our relationships we tend to hide who we really are and what we are really doing out of fear. But because of the forgiveness of Christ, and through him the forgiveness we receive from others, we can be honest with one another. We all know that knowledge is power. We distrust anyone who knows too much about us because we’ve had experiences where power has been abused. On the other hand, an authority that truly intends for our good and acts for our benefit provides us with security. The power of God in Jesus is a reality which, for our benefit, restrains itself so humbly and so completely, that we experience it as holy freedom– a freedom that removes fear. Yet at the same time it is a living power, enveloping even people who are apathetic and scornful, and tenderly cares for them to make sure that not even one hair from their
head is lost.
Judgment will be made by God who knows the number of hairs on our head and is aware of how many sparrows there are on earth. Jesus quietly adds: "You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows." It is nice to know once in a while that all of our trials and tribulations, our pains anxieties are not in vain. The next time we get that fearful feeling that our life is for the birds, let us take heart, and have a bit more courage and confidence in the Father's care.