Today’s readings have an ominous quality to them, with multiple references to attacks, sin and death. Yet we can glean important elements of hope from them.
Praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked! (Jer 20:13)
How can God’s love give you comfort and peace?
What can you do to overcome negativity in your life?
How can prayer foster your relationship with God?
There are many thought-provoking passages in Jeremiah that reflect the prophet’s mental states and attitudes during his prophetic career. Today we hear about his haters. In the first reading, Jeremiah describes the attacks that he experiences because of his community’s discontent with his prophetic message. People whisper about him, denounce him and even his friends watch as he stumbles. Although he faces negativity, Jeremiah frames these negative experiences as tests of his righteousness to see if he would remain faithful to God even during difficult moments. While struggling, Jeremiah expresses his faith in God as his defender. Likewise, he recognizes that God takes care of those who are most in need. As many people continue to struggle and may at times feel under attack, Jeremiah reminds us to seek refuge in the Lord.
In the second reading from Romans, we hear Paul’s statements on the origin of sin and death. With his reference to the “pattern of the trespass of Adam,” he interprets this mythic account of the first human eating the forbidden fruit as an archetype of human behavior. Importantly, he highlights divine grace which overcomes human tendencies. Through faith and belief in Christ and his sacrifice, salvation is possible.
The Gospel reading contains some unsettling language but pairs it with clear affirmations of God’s love and care for creation. The Gospel comes from the missionary discourse (Mt 10:1-11:1), in which Jesus summons the Twelve Apostles, gives them authority and highlights some of the challenges they will face while spreading the good news. In today’s excerpt, Jesus tells his followers not to fear death but instead to be confident in God’s power to overcome it.
Like Paul, Matthew asserts divine power to conquer negative human actions. Like Jeremiah, Matthew predicts that the apostles will face rejection. Jesus empowers his followers to be fearless and proclaim the Gospel for all to hear. This message would have been relevant to Matthew’s audience, as he was writing about 50 years after Jesus’ death. The missionary work of the early Christian community was already underway, and early Christians faced clear dangers of persecution. Jesus acknowledges the vulnerabilities inherent in missionary work early in his public ministry, but Jesus also inspires his followers to persevere, knowing that God is with them. While explaining the risks of being one of his followers and future leaders, Jesus also expresses the protection that comes from the Father in heaven.
Despite the tone of the readings, their messages are largely positive and encourage trust and belief in God. As we navigate a sometimes dangerous and chaotic world, we can look to today’s readings for confirmation of God’s protection. Obviously, we should not be reckless in our actions; throwing caution to the wind can have dangerous consequences. Nonetheless, the biblical readings can serve as reminders of God’s active presence in our lives. They reiterate the importance of faith in God, especially during challenging times.