A. THE BIBLE as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. Reflection & Dialogue: The entire Church is missionary

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13). He has delivered the souls of the needy from the hands of evil men.

This reading is chosen to go with today’s Gospel text in which Jesus tells his apostles to be prepared for suffering, and to confront it with confidence in divine protection. All this was prefigured by Jeremiah in his mission. Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. When chosen by God he replied that he was unfit for the task, to which God replied that he would be with him in his calling to convey God’s message without fear. God told him: “‘But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, or I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you’” (Jeremiah 1:17-19). In today’s reading, in a text known as one of his confessions, Jeremiah speaks plainly of one of the many dangers to his very life he encountered. The central theme of his preaching was the divine punishment about to fall on Judah: “Terror on every side”. This led to plans to destroy him. He recalled God’s promise to him. and asks God to intervene, ending with a song of praise to God as he foresees this already done.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 68[69]). In your great love, answer me, O God.

Second Reading (Romans 5:12-15). The gift considerably outweighed the fall.

This is considered one of the more difficult passages of the Epistle to the Romans. In it Paul contrasts the disastrous consequences of the sin of Adam with the new life brought by Christ. He speaks of each of those,  Adam and Christ, as “the one”. The sin of “the one”, Adam, unleashed Sin and Death on the world, not individual sins and deaths but both as personified powers, with capital letters, Sin and Death, that spread to entire humanity. Paul is contrasting these two, and begins his text in the original and literal translation as “Just as Sin came into the world…”. He does not complete his contrast, which should be “so through Christ came life..”. Instead he introduced a remark that sin existed in the world before the Law (of Moses) was given. Infringements of the Law of Moses could be described as “transgression”, “law breaking”, which in this thinking would not have been there before the Law of Moses. Here Paul fails to note that he himself had already said (Romans 2:14-15) that the Gentiles who do not have the Law through the consciences have a law that judges them. In the present text Paul says through the sin of Adam (“the one”) sin spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. How precisely they have sinned he does not say. The word generally rendered “because” (all have sinned) in modern versions, was translated in the old Latin versions as “in whom” (all have sinned), giving rise eventually to the widespread doctrine of Original Sin. It is generally agreed that Paul does not have this in mind here.
The second part of the reading contains Paul’s chief point in the reading: The effects of the grace of “the One man” Christ far outweigh those of Adam’s sin, grace coming to so many as an abundant free gift.

Gospel (Matthew 10:26-33). Do not be afraid of those who kill the body.

This reading forms part of Jesus’ instruction the Twelve. He sends them out to preach the good news. Up to this Jesus has been instructing in them apart, in private or in secret one might say. The mission is now in public. The opening sentences of this passage could be accepted as wisdom sayings. As they stand in this instruction they probably refer to the changed circumstances between Jesus and his disciples. They are not to be afraid to confront the challenges of their new mission; what has been hidden will now be brought to the light of day in this public proclamation of the Kingdom – from the housetops. They are told to be prepared for persecution, even death, and consoled by the promise of divine assistance. For what it counts, persecution can only affect the body, not the soul. And they are comforted again by Jesus’ words that the Father takes care of them, who cares for the smallest of market birds, the sparrows. They are worth more than hundreds of sparrows. Acknowledgment or rejection of Jesus will bring similar response by the heavenly Father at the judgment.
What was addressed here to the Twelve on that first public mission holds true in its own way for missionaries and believers of all ages.

B. Reflection & Dialogue: The entire Church is missionary

During his public life Jesus commissioned the apostles to preach the Good News to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and after his resurrection his commission was to preach to Gospel to the ends of the earth. And in the Church’s history the main emphasis on mission has been that by specially chosen persons. This may overlook another mission there from the beginning, one given to all believers. Christ told his first followers, before the choice of the Twelve, that they were the salt of the earth and then light of the world, and that their light should shine before others so that they give glory to their Father in heaven. Peter in his epistle (1 Peter 3:15-16) told his readers to be always be ready to make their defence to anyone who demands from them an account of the hope that is in them; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. This is a missionary activity. He also told them (2:9) that they are chosen by God as a royal priesthood and holy nation to proclaim the mighty acts of God. The Church, the people of God, has been missionary through its missionary priests and through the financial and other support it provided for the missions. The Church in our own day, in the Vatican Council, and later, has become aware of the mission of the Church as a whole, as God’s people, to the world of our day. As the Council document on Missionary activity puts it, the Church one earth is by its very nature missionary, since according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit to communicate the love of God to all individuals and to all peoples, and by reason of this it is aware that for her a tremendous missionary work still remains to be done. There is a growing disbelief in God and an active movement of atheism. Believers are missionary by their knowledge of the riches of their Christian inheritance and by a life in keeping with it. They should be aware of the profound transformation which is talking place among nations, and work hard so that modern men and women are not turned away from the things of God by an excessive preoccupation with modern science and technology.

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