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Ordinary Time 12 (A)
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Readings for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

       1. Jeremiah 20, 10-13

  • The prophet says that he is in trouble.  I’m not talking street muggings or identity thefts or suicide bombers.  This is an organized campaign from within his own party.  Jeremiah is not hallucinating; he knows what is going down.  He repeats the words of conspiracy: Terror on every side.  Let us denounce him.  Can I hear, can I capture the whispering intrigue of the plotters?  In Jeremiah’s case they accused him of treason.  God’s servants today receive threatening phone calls or e-mails.  Their names are defamed by blogs like these, or reported to higher-ups in the institution for disciplinary action.
  • So how does the he fight back?  Does he curse his attackers?  Does he pull out his submachine gun and mow them down?  Or does he call on God to do the dirty work?  I notice that John Rambo is coming out of retirement.  But I do not hear any of this from the prophet.  I hear words of confidence.  The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion. 
  • The God on whom he calls is not easy pickings.  You test the just, you probe mind and heart.  God is the one who calls us just. 
  • What counts is that he is protected and supported by God.  He knows it and so he trusts God.  Does he shout and scream this?  Does he repeat it agonizingly like the words of the prayer in the garden?  I do not think he spoke the words with calm resignation!  The mission sermon of Jesus in today’s Gospel is in the same line as Jeremiah, and reflects the same adversity and need to trust God.
  • Climax: Our trust and loyalty are not to people in power, and even less to our own agenda of fame, but to God.  Toward the end of the passage the prophet confesses: To you I have entrusted my cause. 
  • Message for our assembly: In the words of Jeremiah, it is better to be persecuted than to persecute.  Our own can be found on either side.  Help them to turn to the God of Jeremiah.  Let them know that God is the judge and that persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
  • I will challenge myself: To feel the terror in my own guts as I speak, and to transmit some of the calm surrender of the martyrs in my reading.

 

2. Romans 5, 12-15

  • Here is the most difficult reading in the lectionary, full of long sentences and strange allusions to Adam and the Law of Moses.  How can I present it so that my listeners will understand and grow in faith?
  • I will have to look for the main theme and emphasize that.  In my opinion, the main theme is summed up in the first words: Through one man.  One man got us into trouble and a dead-end, sin and death, and one man led us back to the grace of God. 
  • If my listeners hear this theme echoing in their hearts and minds, I feel I have carried out my ministry.  If they don’t understand the relationship between sin and law, I don’t mind much.  I’ll let the homilist deal with that if he wants.
  • A note on translations: this reading in the new lectionary is a great improvement over the previous version, which tended to make the ancient and remote comparison of sin and law even more obscure for listeners.  Let me just take my time and speak clearly through the first half of the passage.  And then let loose when I come to the…
  • Climax: The gift is not like the transgression.  I will speak these words so convincingly that my listeners will continue to muse on them when I am done.
  • The message for our assembly: Everyone is a player in this drama.  This great act of salvation trumps any hand we were holding.  That “everyone” means those I see today and everyone I do not see.  The grace of God and the gracious gift of Jesus overflow for the many (which means “for everyone”, as I will demonstrate by my panoramic gaze). 
  • I will challenge myself: To reach out with the apostle’s own missionary enthusiasm to bring all my listeners into this act of grace.

 

Matthew 10, 26-33

  • Jesus speaks to his disciples.  I hear a phrase over and over: Fear no one, do not be afraid.  Let me say them with the same warmth and promise that we would expect from Jesus.
  • I also hear a series of sayings that are loosely connected.  I call it the most effective halftime talk ever written.  It was meant for all of us in our work of evangelizing.  Halftime talks tend to be like that: loosely connected bursts of encouragement before the second-half struggle.  But all that talk is meaningless if no struggle follows. 
  • These sayings are not easy for me to hear, and difficult to bear when I do hear.  I accept the words of comfort but lose sight of the challenge that accompanies them.  Something like that may happen when we sing the song Be Not Afraid.  Listen: if we go where Jesus is, our honor and maybe our life will be at stake.  He commands us: Acknowledge me before others.  I listen carefully: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body. 
  • Be careful with those double negatives at the beginning: Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.  Let me keep my stress off the negatives and on the action words at the end of each phrase: revealed and known.  If I finish each phrase with energy I will make it obvious that appearances will soon end and the truth of God’s word will be evident, just as it should be in this assembly.  Do I believe it?  That is my task, to recognize the God of revelation in my reading, to acknowledge Christ in my ministry.
  • Climax: Every hair of your head has been counted. 
  • Message for our assembly: We are all called to speak in the light.  If we are firmly convinced that all the hairs of our head are counted, we will accept the invitation of Jesus. 
  • I will challenge myself: To pay attention to the challenges Jesus makes in this reading, as I urge my listeners to acknowledge him.

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