Today we reenter Ordinary Time at the twelfth Sunday. The common theme of all readings today, God’s provident care for us, manifest a loving and caring God even when we find ourselves in dire difficulties.
Jeremiah experiences grave threats because his message of repentance is unpopular among both the religious and the political leaders. They denounce him. They want to trap him and prevail against him. Jeremiah’s response is a firm conviction that God is taking care of him and will continue to do so. He concludes his oracle saying, “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.”
Paul’s message in Romans is similar. Through transgression of God’s command in the garden, sin and death entered the world. As Paul describes the plight of human existence, he shows that God would not allow sin and death to have their way. Through God’s gracious care the Savior entered the world. Paul concludes, “For if by the transgression of the one many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.”
Finally, the theme of God’s provident care also appears in Jesus’ oration to his disciples: “Fear no one.” Jesus uses the image of the infinite value of two sparrows telling his disciples they are worth more than many sparrows. The only requirement for the Father’s continued protection is to acknowledge Jesus to those who would destroy his flock.
This constant message of Ordinary Time is meant for us as we traverse our own lives in the midst of imminent danger. God cares for us in danger. Sin and death have been conquered by Jesus Christ. We are of infinite value. We can lose sight of this very basic scriptural point if we accept the mass media messages too seriously. The scriptures today encourage us to take courage in the midst of many woes. Even though our political system is in disarray, the very planet seems to be in danger, and terrorism keeps us on edge, the Scriptures encourage us to live lives of trust and confidence in God.
Jesus makes a significant promise at the end of the Gospel reading: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” Perhaps in our current situation, as people who acknowledge Jesus before others, we find ourselves much like Jeremiah. Perhaps it looks like sin and death have the upper hand, but, we must never forget that we cannot afford to be afraid, if we are to become the light of the world for the people of our time.
Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House, Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.