12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Jeremiah 20:10-13
Jeremiah’s prophetic career extended from his youth in 626 B.C.
to a date considerably later than the ruin of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Thus he witnessed the brief renewal of the covenant people under
Josiah; the latter’s death in 609 at Megiddo; the obstinate,
weak, and futile resistance of Josiah’s successors to Babylon;
and the continued intrigues by those left behind in the land after the
mass deportations in 605, 597, and 586, these intrigues culminating in
the murder of Gedaliah, Babylon’s representative. After this
episode the assassins forced Jeremiah to accompany them on their flight
More than any other prophet, Jeremiah not merely preached his inspired
message but lived it too; incurring the hatred and persecution of the
anti-Babylonian party throughout his life, and suffering intense
personal anguish and conflicts from the part he was forced by Yahweh to
play in these events.
Jeremiah’s message as a whole is dominated by a four-fold
opposition: First, between Yahweh as true God and the false gods;
Second, between Jeremiah as the true prophet and the false prophets;
Third, between the transforming power of the true religion of mind and
heart and the ineffective externalism of the official cult; and Fourth,
between Babylon, designated by Yahweh to be his “servant”
and Egypt, the beguiler and deceiver. Yahweh is consistently thought of
as dwelling not in the Temple at Zion (as He is in Isaiah) but
transcendently in heaven, looking down upon the world and presiding
over all that it contains from the vast cosmic forces to the most
interior thoughts and dispositions of its inhabitants.
Today we hear Jeremiah despairing about his situation.
10 I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side!
This was the cry of Jeremiah to the officer in charge of the Temple in
Jeremiah 20:4. This cry resulted in Jeremiah being flogged and set in
the stocks. The cry is now turned against the prophet in derision and
Denounce! let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are
on the watch for any misstep of mine. “Perhaps he will be
trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him. 11 But the
LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will
stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to
utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
This confidence has its foundation in Yahweh’s promise (Jeremiah
1:8, 19), which the prophet often recalled. In the midst of strong
contradictions he keeps his faith in Yahweh’s loyalty.
12 O LORD of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have
entrusted my cause. 13 Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, For he has
rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!
This verse has often been rejected by scholars as a late doxology but
the closing words “from the power of the wicked” is found
only in Jeremiah’s writings (Jeremiah 15:21; 21:12; 23:14). The
Hebrew word ebyôn , translated here as “the poor” has
meaning other than sociological; it refers to a pious man, the one who
does Yahweh’s bidding.
2nd Reading - Romans 5:12-15
Our reading continues from where we left off last week. Recall that
Saint Paul approaches his discussions from the perspective of family
covenant, not the legal courtroom. To gain a better understanding of
the context of this reading, we will continue on through Romans 6:1.
12 [T]hrough one person
This refers to Adam. As a result of original sin we are born spiritually dead which leads to sin.
sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to
all, inasmuch as all sinned 13 for up to the time of the law, sin was
in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.
See Romans 4:14-15.
14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses,
Saint Paul now begins to discusses three ages: Adam to Moses is the
natural period which is represented by the fallen, unhappy family;
Moses to Christ is the legal period in which one nation is the example;
and from Christ onward is the period of international blessing where
all nations are blessed and freed from the Law through the grace of
even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
Typology plays an important role in the writings of Saint Paul. Here,
he talks about how Christ, the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians
15:45), was prefigured by Adam.
“Although through one man’s sin death has passed to all
men, Him whom we do not refuse to acknowledge as the father of the
human race we cannot refuse to acknowledge as also the author of death.
... In Adam I fell, in Adam I was cast out of paradise, in Adam I died.
How shall God call me back, except He find me in Adam? For just as in
Adam I am guilty of sin and owe a debt to death, so in Christ I am
justified.” [Saint Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 378), On The Death Of
His Brother Satyrus 2,6]
15 But the gift is not like the transgression.
Lest the comparison with Adam should seem like an affront to Christ,
Saint Paul stresses the surpassing quality of Christ’s influence
on humanity. The first mode of expressing that superabundance is the
manifestation of God’s favor far in excess of any mercy that sin
might have otherwise evoked.
For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much
more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus
Christ overflow for the many.
“These words clearly teach that original sin is common to all
men, regardless of the personal sins of each one.” [Saint
Augustine of Hippo (ca. A.D. 421), Against Julian, Defender of the
Pelagian Heresy 20,63]
“As infants cannot help being descended from Adam, so they cannot
help being touched by the same sin, unless they are set free from its
guilt by the baptism of Christ.” [Saint Augustine of Hippo (A.D.
414) Letter to the Sicilian Layman Hilary 157]
16 And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s
sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought
condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought
acquittal. 17 For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to
reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the
abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in
life through the one person Jesus Christ. 18 In conclusion, just as
through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one
righteous act acquittal and life came to all. 19 For just as through
the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through
the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.
From Adam we get a sinful nature, but from Christ we gain a righteous nature.
20 The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where
sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, 21 so that, as sin
reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for
eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 6:1 What then shall we say?
Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not!
Gospel - Matthew 10:26-33
We rejoin Jesus this week during the first year of His public ministry.
He has just commissioned the twelve and is instructing them as they are
[Jesus said to the Twelve:] 26 “Fear no one.
The ministry of preaching is intrinsically frightening. Only faith in a revealing and judging God can overcome that fear.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will
not be known. 27 What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not be
afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be
afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
Gehenna is the term which Jesus uses to refer to the place of eternal
destruction. It is also the valley which runs along the southern edge
of Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The Hebrew word ge-hinnom
means “valley of the son of Hinnom.” The name is probably
that of the original Jebusite owner of the property. It became a cultic
shrine where human sacrifice was offered (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles
28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2ff; 32:35). Because of this cult
Jeremiah cursed the place and predicted that it would be a place of
death and corruption.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet
not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s
The cheapest life in the market is cited; yet God’s providential
care extends to it. God knows even when a small bird dies, He is aware
of the death of one of His own and He will save the life that endures
30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted. 31 So
do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
A rabbinic argument technique which compares a light matter to a heavy
one. It is used here to overcome fear and encourage the disciples to
32 Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before
my heavenly Father. 33 But whoever denies me before others, I will deny
before my heavenly Father.
With the assurance of confidence that God knows and cares what happens,
the disciples are urged to confess “in Jesus.” The
confession would be the typical confession of the primitive Church that
“Jesus is Messiah and Lord.” The reward of confession or
denial is that Jesus will accept or disown according to one’s
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org