TWELFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR OF MATTHEW
25th June 2017
The prophet Jeremiah in the first reading has everything stacked against him. He feels vulnerable and under threat, doubly so, because those who oppose him used to be his friends. They believe they are doing a holy deed in denouncing him. They feel threatened by his message which he claims comes from God. They even quote the saying: “Terror on every side!” Jeremiah is seen as a terrorist. They must be terrified. Revenge is in their hearts. Who is in the right?
Two and a half thousand years later, we are caught in the same dilemma. Terror breeds terror. In the heat of the moment, the tension of fear, the temptation to revenge is simple and overwhelming. Destroy those who threaten us, and we shall be safe. The logic ultimately justifies mass destruction: “Thank God for nuclear deterrence!” Threats can never bring peace.
Jeremiah doesn’t go down the wide road of revenge but the narrow path of peace. And Jesus goes to the root of the tension. First, he disarms the fear. In today’s gospel he says three times: ”Do not be afraid…. do not be afraid…. there is no need to be afraid….” Fear is not a need, but a reaction to our powerlessness. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. He says: ”I am your light. Everything now hidden will be made clear.” Secondly, he reassures: ”Trust me. Your life, however weak and vulnerable, is precious to me. I love you with an everlasting love. If that is true for your unique beauty, then it is true for every unique part of creation.” Thirdly, it follows that each of us should treat his/her neighbour accordingly. Perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).
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