A ‘boost’ when things seem difficult to handle, encouragement when persecutions come, salvation in the time of distress! Only God can energize us like that!
‘He never said you would only see sunshine, he never said there would be no rain…’and so the hymn goes. What’s so beautiful in this hymn is the last line, ‘He will turn your sorrow into joy’. And that’s the wonderful message we get from all the readings today.
Jeremiah, a major prophet of the Old Testament, was chosen by Yahweh even before he was conceived in His mother’s womb, and was consecrated and set apart as a “prophet to the nations”. He was sent to the surviving children of Israel in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and a few Gentile nations. In Jeremiah’s mission, we can see a foreshadowing of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s mission too.
Of course, no one would like to hear about their own inevitable future destruction and death; that’s the Word of God that Jeremiah prophesied to the elders, chief priests and people at a gathering; that Yahweh was going to break them just like a clay pot and destroy their temple and the entire city of Jerusalem. The chief priest struck Jeremiah and put him in the stocks (an instrument of punishment that held the body confined in a painful position). He called Pashhur – the chief priest a false prophet, nicknamed by Yahweh “Terror all around”, and in the midst of all his suffering and humiliation, Jeremiah shifts his focus to Yahweh his protector. So great is Jeremiah’s trust and faith in God who promised him His divine protection all through his ministry, that he thanks God in advance for his deliverance as we see in today’s first reading. When we are down and out, hope in God!
Jesus in today’s Gospel said to His disciples, “Have no fear of them.” Jesus had earlier warned His disciples of the persecutions and dangers they would have to face in their mission in preaching the Gospel message. He never said that everything would be easy for them. In fact, He gave His own example that if He himself was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul (a Canaanite God- also understood as Devil), they too would be falsely accused. He told them not to fear men and not even Satan; but rather to have the reverent fear of God that leads to a righteous life and the fear of offending Him. If God could care for sparrows (the cheapest meat that one could buy at the market eaten by the poor), He would certainly care for men and women who are His masterpiece of Creation. This certainly encouraged them and gave them the confidence to go ahead and teach and proclaim His message as we are told in the beginning of Chapter 11.
Today is Laity Sunday - a day which the church recognizes the indispensable role of the lay people - you and me - in the mission of the church. Most of us are content being passive Christians. Christ called us to be His disciples; to shoulder His responsibility in evangelizing - spreading the Gospel message. The road is not easy and that is why Christ prepares us in advance. Let us awaken ourselves, boost ourselves, energize ourselves and like Jeremiah, strengthen ourselves in the confident hope that God will save us.
Christ urges us to have a childlike trust that God the Father will always provide for our needs. Today’s psalm reiterates the need to be confident in our Lord, who hears the needy and does not despise those who are in bonds! Let us stretch out our hands in praise of this wonderful and awesome God who never fails!