Jeremiah 20:10-13, 2, Romans 5:12-1, Matthew 10:26-33
There are times in life when we face circumstances, sometimes at this point we lose hope and faith in God. Many darkest moments and circumstances sometimes plunge us into fear either because of the uncertainty of the future or because we have concluded that the battle at hand can never be won. Today we have a lot of battles both physical and spiritual going on in our lives, but sometimes we think that the oppositions are far more greater than we are. Today many are dying in secret, some are being persecuted, some see evil and cover it, not because they like what might be happening but because they have concluded themselves to be weak and powerless in the face of evil. Today we are more interested in protecting ourselves than criticizing evil. Fear has led many to bury their mission on earth because they are afraid of criticism, afraid of what people will say, and afraid of people who might attack them.
Jeremiah’s Laments and Strength
To understand the first reading very well. Let us begin from the verse one of Jeremiah 20. The situation is that the priest Pashhur had Jeremiah beaten and imprisoned, because He heard him prophesying. He allowed Jeremiah to stay in prison a whole full day. The next day, when Pashhur released him, Jeremiah stood before his face and prophesied doom for him and his family and in the verse 7, of this chapter, we see Jeremiah in tears and laments. According to Jeremiah God deceived him by allowing Him to pass through a series of troubles.He cried that instead of peace, the word of the Lord has brought insult and reproach all day long”. (Jeremiah 20:8). In verses 14-18, Jeremiah cursed and regretted ever being born. This is exactly what we do in the midst of troubles and distress, This is sometimes our attitude when we face opposition and think God has forsaken us.
Jeremiah faced great difficulties. As a prophet of God; The people threatened Jeremiah with death (11:18-23). He had to contend with lying prophets (14:13-14). Hananiah publicly opposed Jeremiah (28:1-17), He suffered through a siege with his people (32:1-15) even court officials put him in a muddy but waterless cistern (38:1-6). And many more. In this chapter too we saw how the priest, Pashur, struck Jeremiah and put him in prison (20:1-2). All these pushed him to lament but never wavered. He expressed his frustrations yet never lost hope in God. He did not quit his mission. In verse 11, he demonstrated that despite the hard circumstances, God is still with Him like a mighty warrior and has committed His cause in the hands of God, because of that he remains strong and undefeated. Just like David who told Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, “This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17: 46-47).
Our battle belongs to God. Despite the persecutions Jeremiah faced,The persecutors did not prevail over Jeremiah.Despite the attacks against Daniel, He was victorious. In the times of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Jews tried many times to arrest Him before his time but they could not (John 10:39, John 7:30, Mathew 21:46) until the appointed time. We can make our own plans, but it is still God who gives the final answer. (Proverbs 16:1).
Live in the Lord not in the fear of them
It is always easy to fear in the face of opposition and challenges. It is always very easy to lose faith in God. Fear in the face of persecution is natural, but in today’s gospel Jesus gives reasons not to fear .
- The first reason not to fear is that despite how people try to hide their truest intentions and evil schemes, God sees and searches our inmost hearts He knows the plans of the enemy. If we are strong in the Lord, we have also to know that when plans are done at our back and against you, God knows all of them . He says , “for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed; and hidden that will not be known” (v. 26). Evil people may plan in secret and at night, they will go a long way to hide their deeds. They might conspire and hide their plans. But He “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness” (1 Corinthians 4:5), He will never allow the darkness to prevail over the light and will never allow those who believe in Him to be put to shame (Psalm 25:3, Romans 10:11)
- Jesus tells His disciples “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in the ear, proclaim on the housetops” a person standing on a housetop can be seen and heard by all. Jesus calls us to touch souls without fear of anyone, without fear of persecutions and oppositions. Today many Christians will in the face of arguments deny their belief, some in the face of challenging times, lose faith in God, while many in the face of people we see as stronger oppositions, surrender and fear that we may be persecuted. To be a disciple of Jesus is to stand strong in the face of opposition, why because we are not alone. Preach and teach boldly, correct peacefully and wisely, give correct judgements without fear or favour. This is what distinguishes us from the world.
- Another reason not to fear is because of the limited power of our opponents. They might have power over the body but not over the soul. Only God is supreme and has power over all things. They might think they are winning in the long run but victory belongs to God (psalms 3:8). There is no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel that can prevail against the Lord. The horse may be made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30-31). David knows this principle, despite all the evil schemes by Saul to get him killed and captured, were fruitless, In Psalm 20:7, He bemoans those who trust in chariots and horses. For victory only comes from the Lord. Today Jesus says “do not fear them who can only kill the body but not the soul” but today we do the opposite. Those Jesus is trying to emphatically point at are those who can manipulate only the physical but not the spiritual. Our fear should be on the One who sees in secret, the one who has every power over us, and the one who has power over the spiritual and the physical.
1.The readings of today teaches us what we can do in the midst of fear and hard situations. When Jesus says “be not afraid of them’, remember that he is not only referring to your enemies, “them” simply means “not you”. Be not afraid of anything outside you. What we do not understand is that fear is what stands between victory and defeat. Fear does not exist on its own, it must come from the person. So fear is not an existing reality nor in that external circumstance, the fear is coming from you. To go out and win souls, and win victory, we must remove the fear just like David taught the Israelites in 1 Samuel 17. What we owe people is respect.
2.It is quite sad that many today who seem to be the promoters of justice are the ones demoting it. It is quite disheartening that many of us fear to be criticized, we fear to say that this is evil, many close their mouths to speak out against evil because they know they are gaining from it. Yet we are Christians. I am always sad when people say that religion and Christianity are their problems, and forget that these promote peace, progress, and unity, and importantly relationship with God, because life here is nothing but temporary. We are the problem to ourselves. In the face of evil, we close our mouths because we do not want to offend anyone. Today also we have become a wolf to another man.
3.Many Christians today fear men of positions more than they fear God. Many respect their leaders and eat hook and sinker both good and bad, He purges out of his mouth but can never respect any statement from the bible. They do this because of fear or because of a certain favour they think they are receiving and do not want to lose it. Always be at the forefront of truth because at the last day it is still God and not the human being we are going to give account to.
4.Today we fear those who will give us money and gifts but we fail to fear God. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both souls and body in the hell fire As we preach and depend on God’s mercy and love, let us not forget that His judgment is real. Only God has supreme authority over everything. Strong faith in God helps us to overcome the fear of people,
Nothing happens without the knowledge of God and will. In the Gospel, Jesus asks “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
5.This simply means that if God can protect the lives of the sparrows which could not be bought with a penny, is it those he bought with the blood of His Son that He will overlook?. If God can protect and care for them He can do more to us. However, this is not a promise that we cannot face challenges and oppositions but a pointer that despite that, we have to stand strong and confess Him in every circumstance, and every situation. Be blessed, be inspired and stay faithful.
May God bless you dearest and give us the grace to know Him more. God bless you. Happy Sunday
Fr Okechukwu Ugwoegbu (Sanctus MArio)