In the Gospel Jesus says that the disciples are to not be afraid to acknowledge him before others. On this Father’s Day I think about the love that my father had for his faith and how he passed on that faith through all aspects of his life. That faith helped to shape my faith and the faith of my brothers and sister.
The first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. The Book of Jeremiah not only presents the prophecies of Jeremiah but also the inner turmoil of the prophet. Jeremiah was called at a very young age. At the time of his call God spoke a message that would stay with Jeremiah for his entire life. At the beginning of his ministry God told Jeremiah that he was not to be afraid of those who attacked him as God would deliver him. Throughout his life Jeremiah prophesied against idolatry, mistreatment of the poor and alliances with foreign governments. As a result of this idolatry Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The faithfulness of Jeremiah led to resistance from his friends as well as religious and political leaders. His life was even placed in jeopardy. In today’s reading, Jeremiah castigates the leaders for not obeying God’s word. The head of the Temple police, Passhur, puts Jeremiah in stocks and scourges him.
The reading we hear proclaimed is from an interior crisis that Jeremiah experiences. Jeremiah expresses his anguish by stating, “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed (Jeremiah 20:7).” The meaning of entice is both to seduce and to deceive. Yahweh tricked his messenger. There is a sense that God forced Jeremiah to prophesy. In the midst of this interior crisis Jeremiah states, “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph (Jeremiah 20:11).” Jeremiah knows God is with him as he proclaims this difficult message. Throughout his life Jeremiah stayed faithful to God as he was confident that God would deliver him.
The Gospel reading comes from the Missionary Discourse in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus chooses twelve disciples to go out and proclaim the final coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus empowers the disciples to heal and cast out evil in order to proclaim and prepare others for the coming of the kingdom. We like the disciples are sent forth to proclaim the Good News.
Jesus then lists the persecutions which await the disciples for proclaiming the Good News. Just as Jesus will be handed over to the Roman and Jewish authorities so will the disciples be handed over to Jewish and Gentile authorities. Just as Jesus will be scourged so will they be flogged. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will speak through them and if they remain faithful, they will be saved.
In today’s Gospel Jesus sends his disciples forth to carry on his mission of preaching and healing. Jesus begins by saying while you can expect opposition, do not fear your enemies. Jesus exhorts the disciples to boldly proclaim his message to all. They are to proclaim that message from the housetops. In a small Palestinian village, screaming from a rooftop was a successful way of making one’s message heard.
In order to prepare His disciples for the attacks they would receive which could even end in death, Jesus tells them that they are not to fear those who can kill the body but not kill the soul. The disciples are to only fear God who can destroy both body and soul at the last judgement.
Jesus then tells the disciples that while sparrows have very little value not even one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing about it. In the time of Jesus sparrows were very cheap as they were very small and so they yielded very little meat. Jesus’ point is that if these insignificant creatures are cared for by God, how much more will God care for the disciples. We likewise are more valuable than sparrows and we can trust that God loves and cares for us.
Jesus says that even the hairs of our head are counted. Jesus is saying that God knows and cares about even the smallest details of our lives down to the numbers of the hairs on our head. In other words, God cares for each of us.
The readings of today remind us that we have been chosen to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to others. While this will probably bring fear, we are to still proclaim the Lord’s message, since God knows and loves us and is with us to protect us. Therefore, let us not fear!