12th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Be not afraid!
The First Reading for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time is from the Prophet Jeremiah. He is a wonderful example of faith and perseverance. Jeremiah was born around the year 650 B.C. and was the son of Hilkiah, a levitical priest. It was during his training for the priesthood that he was called to be a prophet. God assured him that despite his youth, he would be given what was needed to speak the truth without fear. (Jeremiah I:9).
He lived during a difficult time in the history of Israel. This was the beginning of the Babylonian Exile. He witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He constantly warned the people to change their ways and they would not listen. For forty years he was rejected and maligned; however, he never gave up hope.
This is clearly seen in the following passage from the First Reading: “But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail…Sing to the Lord: praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.” Jeremiah understood that hope has less to do with circumstances and more to do with trust in God.
Jesus speaks about this in the Gospel: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God will always watch over us. Today it is easy to become discouraged as the world seems to be rejecting the Gospel and turning away from Christ. Growing numbers of people of faith are ridiculed for what they believe, persecuted for what they teach, and, in the most extreme cases, martyred because they will not reject Christ.
The temptation is to give up and to stop proclaiming the Truth to the world. As the Gospel reminds us, we must work to uncover what is covered; make known what is secret; bring to the light what is in the dark; and to proclaim loudly what is whispered. Jeremiah shows us how this can be done without losing hope. Be not afraid!