25 June, 2017. 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah is under stress from enemies, yet holds to his confidence in God

For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

2nd Reading: Romans 5:12-15

The effects of Adam’s sin are cancelled by the death of Christ

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned- sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.

Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus forewarns his disciples to be prepared for trials and suffering

Jesus said to his disciples, “Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”


Learning to really trust

(José Antonio Pagola)

When our heart hasn’t got strong love or a firm faith, we can ends up at the mercy of our fears. It can be the fear of losing prestige, security, comfort or well-being. We don’t dare to risk our social position, our money or our small happiness. Other it can be the fear of not being welcome, or the possibility of ending up alone, without friendship or other people’s love. We don’t want to have to live our life without a companion. Or perhaps we’re afraid of being ridiculed, of sharing our convictions, of speaking about our faith.  Other times the fear of the future seeps in. We don’t clearly see our next step.

It can be tempting to seek a safe harbour in a religion that removes all our fears, uncertainties, anxieties. But it would be wrong to see faith as a crutch, or an easy cop-out for frightened people. Faith in God, when rightly understood, doesn’t lead the believer to escape one’s responsibility. It doesn’t lead us to flee from conflicts or challenge; on the contrary, it’s faith that gives us power to live generously and bravely. It’s trust in our God that helps us to overcome cowardice and fear in order to more boldly and freely defend what is right and just.

True faith doesn’t make people cowardly,  it makes them resolute and daring. It doesn’t close believers in on themselves, but opens them up to the problematic sides of living from day to day. It doesn’t wrap them into laziness and comfort, but encourages them to be committed. If we listen in our heart to Jesus’ words: «Don’t be afraid», it’s not a call to evade our commitments, but we are helped by God’s power to confront them.

A prophetic people

Today’s first reading mentions what hardships the prophet Jeremiah had to endure, and the Gospel speaks of our duty of witnessing to Christ in the world. Both are reminders that all members of the People of God are potentially prophets and that all should play some part in handing on the truth about God. In a sense, we are all successors to Jeremiah and to the apostles, whose vocation it was to share Christ’s message with the world.

Not all Christians have equal opportunities to act as spokespersons for God. Bishops and priests have it as their official, vocational duty to encourage and teach the faithful in the way of the Gospel. Their difficult but worthwhile task is to hand on Christ’s teaching faithfully, and correct any errors that threaten the integrity of the traditional Christian doctrine or ethical standards. Like Jeremiah and other Old Testament prophets, they remind their people of God’s revealed will and of the high moral standards God asks of us. And like the prophets, ordained Christian ministers can often expect criticism and opposition, just for doing their job.

Theologians too have an important work to fulfil in the Church, to study the revealed truth, and then link that traditional teaching with modern knowledge and insights, so as to honestly apply the Christian message to new problems. To help them in this daunting work they have the light of the same Holy Spirit who guided the prophets of old, provided they do their research not as masters but as servants of the word of God. However, it is not only priests and theologians who have the prophetic role towards God’s people. The Second Vatican Council taught that every Christian should give a living witness to Christ, at least through living a life of faith and charity and by joining in worship and prayer.

This is not such an easy task. The spirit of today’s society, the example of our contemporaries, and the irreligious mood of much of the media do not always foster God-fearing attitudes or encourage sound moral standards. Christians today are not generally persecuted for showing faith in Christ and his Gospel, but when she or he lives according to this teaching they will be swimming against the tide of a materialistic culture and will not find the going easy. Jesus warns that being a Christian will cost sacrifice and suffering. We are bound to face opposition from a world that does not gladly submit to the word of God, that makes so many demands on human nature. But there is real satisfaction, too, in standing up for the truth of things. In the centre of their souls, prophetic people have the happiness of working with the Lord, who is the ultimate truth on whom we all depend.

Wherever you go, I shall go

Wherever you go, I shall go/ Wherever you live, there shall I live/ Your people will be my people/ And your God will by my God, too. Jesus Christ  promises to be our partner, whatever our work, whatever kind of life we live, wherever we go. We follow him, trusting that he is with us, not just for a moment, but through all of our lives. Wherever we go, however we live, the Lord is at our side. This commitment is lifelong despite our own inability to remember him always, and in spite even of our occasional rejection of him. The mystery of God’s call and of our response to him is that He is always there for us. “You are my friends,” said Jesus, even to disciples who sometimes lose the way.

If we accept the risk of reaching out to others in his name. In saying “yes” to our life as Christian disciples, we can, like Jeremiah, go forward in a zigzag fashion, going somewhere, but not always directly or successfully. “Do not be afraid,” Christ said and still says to us. Following him is not something limited to the fearless few, but also for timid disciples who must control their fears. Neither is he for the perfect but for those who need his word of forgiveness. If travelling the journey of life with Christ seems beyond our reach, remember how once said to his friends, “For human nature alone it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” I follow Christ if I lean on him and build on the strength of the Lord who is always at my side.


  1. Padraig McCarthy says:

    The reading from Matthew 10 for this Sunday as given in the Lectionary (and perhaps on your Mass leaflet?) omits two important words at the very beginning. It has: “Jesus said: Do not be afraid.” Nothing wrong with that, of course, except that it should read: “Do not be afraid of them.” The context here has been lost entirely.

    The chapter begins with Jesus sending out the twelve to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, followed immediately by forewarning them of what they will face: “Take note of this: I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves …”, and telling of the kind of trials they will encounter. So “Do not be afraid of them” refers not to fear in general, but specifically to opposition they will face in bringing news of the kingdom. To supply the context, you may like to insert before the Lectionary reading verse 16 about lambs and wolves, or verse 22: “You will be hated by all on account of my name.”

    This raises the question: Why would people hate those bringing good news? Why would the messengers face such opposition? Clearly, there will be some who will resent the good news because they perceive it as challenging and threatening their security or their position in some way.

    Not all of the good news, of course, will be rejected. Much of the mission of Jesus was welcomed, but much also stirred opposition. A question for me, then is: As a messenger of the gospel, do I always speak in such a way that will elicit agreement and approbation, or do I sometimes speak in such a way as to challenge people, to call them to a new mind and heart, to the extent that they will reject the message, and perhaps even lead to what Jesus speaks of: lambs among wolves? If what I say never leads to “disturbing the peace” of people’s lives, do I need to ask whether I am true to the gospel? The opening statement of the mission of Jesus was to call us to “repentance” – a change of mind and heart and direction, which can be deeply disturbing.

    Keeping in mind that we are worth more than hundreds of sparrows (cheapest food for the poor?), what is there in our situation today which needs to find hope in the good news? And what is there in our situation today which needs to confronted with the call to change and renewal, whatever my fears or our fears of the repercussions, so that we declare ourselves for Jesus before even those who may respond with rejection or even hatred?

    What does this reading tell us about our preaching?

    An Anglican bishop is quoted as saying: “When Paul preached there were riots, when I preach they give me a cup of tea”.

  2. Hi Pádraig,
    Many thanks for those observations on today’s Gospel. I’m more than happy to receive input of this kind… very clear and thought-promoting, as we would of course expect from you. I’ve posted the provisional notes for the Sundays of July, and hope that you (and others among our readers) will feel inclined to supplement them in a similar fashion.

    To access the Homily resources for any date in the month ahead, just click on the July Calendar. If a DATE appears in YELLOW rather than white, it has some posted content to which comment can be added.

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