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Fr. Scott Lewis: Empowered by God, we can do anything

  • June 23, 2023

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) June 25 (Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 69; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33)

Jeremiah often felt like the loneliest man in the world. He was called to a mission he had not asked for and felt ill-prepared to carry out. He lacked confidence, seeing himself as too young and inexperienced. But God would have none of Jeremiah’s objections. Since God had chosen him and sent him forth, Jeremiah would be provided with whatever he needed.

But his ministry was not a raging success. He was ridiculed and harassed, and there were even attempts on his life. At one point, he threw a tantrum before God and vowed that he would quit and walk away. But he could not, for despite all of the opposition, he knew that God was with him and in him. The Word of God burned like fire in his belly, and he had no choice but to proclaim the message that was so odious to the ears of some. He knew that God went before him like a mighty warrior and that he would not be harmed. What was called for was great faith and trust in God. He could even rejoice and praise God in the midst of the negative and dark currents that swirled around him.

Jeremiah had learned a fundamental lesson that we too must learn — it’s never about us, it’s about God. The weakest and most inept person or group can do great and mighty things when they are empowered by God. God does not ask us to do the impossible — at least not on our own. Both the Church and individual believers face great trials and opposition today. It is not a time for cynicism, cowardice or indifference, but a time for a renewal of commitment. God does not want to hear “I can’t” or “I won’t”; the acceptable answer is, “Here I am Lord, send me!”

Some observers have quipped wryly that original sin is the only doctrine for which we have empirical proof. All we need to do is look around at our messy and scary world and read the morning newspaper. At first glance, the passage from Romans seems a perfect fit. But Paul was not interested in hammering out a doctrine of original sin. He wanted to view the brokenness and negativity of the world with one eye and the saving power of Jesus Christ crucified with the other. Human actions set this sorry parade in motion, but the action of one human — that of Jesus — would bring it to an end and restore the integrity and righteousness of humanity. Adam is a collective symbol for humanity, and it reveals that we share a common nature, both negative and positive. No part of humanity is lesser or inferior to another. We all walk together and share in the burdens.

It is easy to tell others not to be afraid when we are not in danger ourselves. Fear is a powerful drive. Sometimes we fear things that cannot hurt us, while other times the fear is real, terrifying and deadly. The Gospel was written during a time of fear and persecution, when professing Jesus Christ often had lethal consequences. Matthew’s Jesus comforts His followers by reminding them that earthly powers can only kill the body, but they cannot touch the soul. Our real fear should be reserved for whatever or whoever can damage or kill the soul. He uses the example of two sparrows that are sold for a penny — they are of little value. And yet God is aware of their death and allows it.

We are worth far more than the sparrows. Our death for the sake of the word of God will be known and remembered by God. Our life and death matter deeply to God, and we will be vindicated. The sparrows will continue to fall when they will, and so will we, but it will not be under the cold and implacable gaze of the heartless and soulless universe that is imagined by many.

The Lord looks upon all of us with compassion and encouragement. He holds in special esteem not those who are “perfect” but those who are courageous and who do not give up, regardless of difficulties and weaknesses. They are the ones whom Jesus honours before the Father. Let us strive to be among them.