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12th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle A)

Readings
Jeremiah 20:10-13
Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
Romans 5:12-15
Matthew 10:26-33

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God reveals His divine plan for mankind in the two Testaments.  That is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: Overcoming Fear in Proclaiming Christ
When we follow Christ's call to take up our crosses and follow Him, we commit ourselves to being His witnesses to carry His Gospel message of salvation to the world despite any hardships we might endure.  We can only fulfill our mission if we remember to trust in God as our protector and deliverer from every obstacle we might face.  It isn't the temporal deliverance that should be our concern but the eternal deliverance Jesus has promised those who are His faithful witnesses.

In the First Reading, the 6th century BC prophet Jeremiah confesses his fears in his mission as God's emissary to the nation of Judah.  He is faithful in delivering God's messages of repentance and judgment to the covenant people.  However, he is opposed and rejected by his countrymen and women, and even his friends ridiculed him.  Despite his hardships and sorrows, Jeremiah writes that he continues to praise Yahweh who is his mighty champion, and he trusts in His justice.

In the Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist is in great distress and makes an appeal to God for his deliverance.  He says that the cause of his suffering is his zeal for God's holy Temple and the defense of God's holy Name, and he mourns that this is the cause of his estrangement from his countrymen and his kinsmen.  The Fathers of the Church saw in this psalm the suffering of the Christ in His humanity during His earthly ministry and as He suffered on the Cross.  His countrymen rejected Him, and He became an outcast and a prisoner.  But, like the psalmist, God heard Jesus' prayer and delivered Him from death.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul addresses the origin of sin and death and the effect the first man's (Adam) sin had on all mankind.  Adam is our human father, and we have inherited from him "spiritual death" as a result of his sin just as we inherit our other genes and traits of human inheritance.  Through our first parents, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead.  It is our spiritual death that infects us with sin and causes the life-long struggle to resist Satan and the temptation to sin.  It is Jesus, the second Adam, who frees us from bondage to sin in the Sacrament of Baptism when we are reborn as children in the family of God.

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus commands His disciples (and us) not to be afraid.  He urges the disciples not to keep His teachings about His Kingdom to themselves.  He intends that the message of the good news of the Kingdom of the Messiah to be a public proclamation and not the valued secret of a few.  Jesus warns that salvation is only through Him, and to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord to others is a condition of discipleship. 

If you acknowledge your belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, it is Jesus' solemn promise that He will stand as your Advocate before God the Father's throne of judgment when your earthly life comes to an end.  It is then that you will be judged according to your faith and works.  You cannot afford to ignore His promise because there is too much at stake.  You can risk being fearless in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ because what is at stake is your place in eternity.

The First Reading Jeremiah 20:10-13 ~ The Lord is Our Deliverer in Times of Trial
Jeremiah said: 10 "I hear the whisperings of many: 'Terror on every side!  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.  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 passage from the Book of Jeremiah consists of Jeremiah's fifth confession in verses 7-18.  It is a psalm that can be divided into two parts:

  1. Jeremiah's confession of suffering and praise in verses 7-13.
  2. Jeremiah's heart-wrenching lament in verses 14-18.

The poetry of Jeremiah's psalm in verses 7-13 is comparable to a toda/todah psalm.  Like other toda (a Hebrew word meaning "thanksgiving") psalms it begins with Jeremiah recounting his suffering at the hands of his enemies, but the psalm ends with a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for Yahweh's protection and his salvation in his time of distress.  Some of the most beautiful of the toda psalms are Davidic psalms, most famously Psalm 22, the first verse of which Jesus will quote from the Cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  This statement from the cross is misinterpreted as a cry of despair when it is instead a reference to David's hymn of faith and belief in the power of God to overcome evil.

Jeremiah described himself as being seduced and overpowered by the Lord to take up his prophetic mission (20:7).  He confesses, however, that he could not resist submitting to the will of God.  There were three kinds of sufferings Jeremiah describes in association with his mission in verse 10:

  1. People ridicule him.
  2. People renounce his prophecies.
  3. Even his friends watch for his downfall in being proved wrong.

Then in verses 11-13, Jeremiah's focus shifts to Yahweh who is his protector.  Jeremiah ends his psalm with the invitation to join him in singing praise to Yahweh who has delivered his soul from the hands of his enemies.  Notice that so great is Jeremiah's trust and faith in God to keep His promise of divine protection (first promised in his call to a prophetic ministry in Jeremiah 1:17-19), that he uses the past tense in thanking Yahweh in advance for his deliverance in verse 13.

Jeremiah's faith and courage in the midst of ridicule and rejection is an example for all Christians.  We are also called to remain faithful to our commissioning as apostles of Jesus Christ that we received in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  We, like Jeremiah, must have faith and trust in God the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us when we profess our belief in Jesus as our Lord and Savior to members of our family, to our neighbors, in the workplace, and to the world.  We must take courage in knowing that God will protect us and the reward for such faith and courage is eternal!

Responsorial Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35 ~ The Lord Answers the Cry Those Who Suffer

The response is: "Lord, in your great love, answer me."
8 For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face.  9 I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my children, 10 because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
Response:
14 I pray to you, O LORD, for the time of your favor, O God!  In your great kindness answer me with your constant help.  [...]  17 Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness; in your great mercy turn toward me.
Response:
33 "See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive!  34 For the LORD hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.  35 Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the seas and whatever moves in them!'"
Response:

In the Psalm reading, the psalmist is in great distress and makes an appeal to God for his deliverance.  He says that the cause of his suffering is his zeal for God's holy Temple and the defense of God's holy Name, and he mourns that this is the cause of his estrangement from his countrymen and his kinsmen (verse 9).  His response to his persecution is to humble himself in prayer, seeking the Lord's mercy and deliverance (verses 14 and 17).  Then in verses 33-35, the psalmist addresses others like himself who are suffering and who seek the Lord, encouraging them that Yahweh hears their prayers.  Finally, he calls on all of creation to praise the God of mercy and justice (verse 35).

The Gospel of John quotes from this psalm when Jesus cleansed the Jerusalem Temple of profane merchants selling animals and exchanging coinage (Jn 2:13-17).  Jesus' disciples recalled the verse from the Greek translation of Psalm 60:10, zeal for your house will consume me in John 2:17.  In Romans 15:3, St. Paul quotes the last words of verse 9 and attributes them to the suffering of Jesus in His Passion, suffering that Christians should unite to their sufferings: For Christ did not please himself; but as it is written, "The insults of those who insult you will fall upon me."  Like St. John and St. Paul, the Fathers of the Church interpreted Psalm 69 as a prophetic prayer related to the suffering Jesus in His humanity.  His sufferings were also the result of His zeal for the Lord and the rejection of His countrymen who made Him an outcast.  In their commentaries, the Church Fathers point out that Jesus suffered as a condemned prisoner on the Cross in His humanity, and God heard His prayer, similar to verse 34: the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not (St. Athanasius, Expositiones in Psalmos, 68). 

The Lord God hears our cries for deliverance from our sufferings when we united our sufferings to the sufferings of the crucified Christ.  Our sufferings united to Christ have value and count toward our eternal salvation because God will raise us up just as He raised up His Son on the last day.

The Second Reading Romans 5:12-15 ~ Jesus Christ the Second Adam:
12 "Well then; it was through one man that sin came into the world, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.  13   Sin already existed in the world before there was any law, even though sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14   Nonetheless death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was not the breaking of a commandment, as Adam's was.  He prefigured the One who was to come.  15 There is no comparison between the free gift and the offence.  If death came to many through the offence of one man, how much greater an effect the grace of God has had, coming to so many and so plentifully as a free gift through the one man Jesus Christ

Paul's "well then" or "therefore" in verse 12 is a summing up of what he has discussed in chapters 1-5:11.  In Romans 5:12-21, Paul addresses the origin of sin and death and how the first man's (Adam) sin had an effect on all mankind.  Adam is our human father, and we have inherited from him "spiritual death" as a result of his sin just as we inherit our other genes and traits of human inheritance.  Through our first parents, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead.  It is spiritual death that infects us with sin and causes the life-long struggle to resist Satan and the temptation to sin.

The issue of mankind's fall from grace raises the question "Why did Satan set out to destroy mankind?"    The inspired writer of the Book of Wisdom writes in 2:24, Death came into the world only through the Devil's envy, as those who belong to him find to their cost.  Envy/jealousy motivated Cain to murder his brother Abel (Gen 4:3-8).  It was the same sin that Satan used to bring the "brothers/countrymen" of Jesus who were under his power to condemn Jesus to death: For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they handed him over (Mt 27:18; also see Mk 15:10; 1 Jn 3:11-12; Heb 11:4).

The inspired writer of Wisdom, in interpreting the Fall of man in Genesis Chapter 3, writes that the death introduced by the devil is spiritual death, with physical death as its consequence: Wisdom 1:13-15, For God did not make Death, he takes no pleasure in destroying the living.  To exist—for this he created all things; the creatures of the world have health in them, in them is no fatal poison, and Hades has no power over the world: for uprightness is immortal. As a result of Adam and Eve's sin in usurping God's power and authority through their desire to judge good and evil for themselves (Gen 3:5), they "died" to sin, and sin came to "live" in humanity with the consequence that spiritual and physical death became the "reward" of sin. 

That sin first entered the world through the Fall of our first parents is the doctrine of original sin.  The temptation to sin that is a result of original sin is called concupiscence.  In turning to the doctrine of original sin, St. Paul draws a contrast between the temptation and Fall, or the "work" of the first Adam, with the One he prefigured, Jesus of Nazareth the "second Adam" and His "work" of redemption.  Jesus became the Savior of all the children of Adam who, through the Sacrament of Baptism, are freed of the inheritance of sin and are reborn as children of God.  It is because of the stain of original sin that mankind needs a redeemer (see CCC 389, 396, 404-05, and 421).

13 Sin already existed in the world before there was any law, even though sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Nonetheless death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was not the breaking of a commandment, as Adam's was,  He prefigured the One who was to come.
Returning to his theme in Romans 2:12, Paul insists that the presence or absence of the Law does not make a fundamental difference since sin and its by product "death" comes to everyone through the legacy of sin that we inherited from our original parents.  Whether we are Gentiles who live outside the Law of Moses or Jews who live with the Law original sin is our inheritance.  It is for this reason that Paul writes, Nonetheless death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was not the breaking of a commandment, as Adam's was.  He prefigured the One who was to come.

So, how did Adam prefigure Jesus of Nazareth?  In 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, St. Paul writes that Jesus is the "second Adam" whose obedience and sacrificial death on the cross undo Adam's disobedience.  Jesus, the Second Adam, triumphed over the same temptations to which the first Adam fell into sin.  St. John identified these temptations as the lusts of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life in 1 John 2:16 (see CCC# 411 & 504).

TEMPTATION: The first and second Adams contrasted:
1 John 2:16 Genesis 3:6 Luke 4:1-13
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father finds no place in him... The First Adam: Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees... Second Adam = Jesus of Nazareth: Then the devil said to Him...
the lust of the flesh: disordered bodily desires The woman saw the tree was good to eat... tell this stone to turn into a loaf
the lust of the eyes: disordered desires of the eyes ...and pleasing to the eye, and... the devil...showed Him all the kingdoms of the world
the pride of life: pride in possession that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give. If you are the Son ...throw Yourself down from here

15 There is no comparison between the free gift and the offence.  If death came to many through the offence of one man, how much greater an effect the grace of God has had, coming to so many and so plentifully as a free gift through the one man Jesus Christ! 

In Romans 5:15 Paul contrasts Adam and Christ as "alike" but "unalike":
ADAM AND CHRIST ALIKE ADAM AND CHRIST UNALIKE
Both Adam and Christ had an effect upon the whole human race Sin and death came from Adam while righteousness and life came from Christ
Both endured the temptation of Satan Adam failed, and Christ was victorious
Through both Adam and Christ, humanity receives an "inheritance" Through Adam's failure, humanity inherits death, original sin and personal sin becomes a plague on mankind. Through Christ's victory, humanity inherits adoption into God family and the promise of eternal life.
Both were human men Jesus was both human and divine
Both the acts of Adam and Jesus invoke a divine verdict Satan stood behind the act of Adam while the grace of God stood behind Christ; the verdict behind Adam's act is judgment while the verdict behind Jesus' is acquittal
Both Adam and Jesus exercised their free will Adam willingly fell from grace and Jesus willingly laid down His life in sacrifice for all mankind
Both were born into the world as sinless and immortal beings Adam lost his immortality when he fell from grace while Jesus remained pure and sinless and through His sacrifice and Resurrection has made God's gift of immortality once again available to man

It is in the Sacrament of Baptism that elevates you from being a fallen child of Adam to being supernaturally infused with the life of the Most Holy Trinity in a spiritual rebirth as a child in the family of God!

The Gospel Reading Matthew 10:26-33 ~ Jesus Urges His Disciples to have Courage when faced with Persecution
26 "Therefore do not be afraid of them.  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.  29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.  30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted.  31 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  32 Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.  But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father."

The third part of the Missionary Discourse is a collection of sayings connected to the theme of the Gospel mission and suffering.  Notice that Jesus' command to not be afraid in verse 26 becomes a theme repeated in verses 26, 28, and 31.  In verses 26-27, Jesus urges the disciples not to keep His teachings about His Kingdom to themselves.  The message of the good news of the Kingdom is intended to be a public proclamation and not the valued secret of a few.

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.
The "body" is a perishable shell, and the "soul" that is immortal is one's real self.  Other human beings can destroy one's impermanent body, but only God has power over life and death eternally.  Do not fear other men and don't even fear Satan, but have the reverent fear of God that leads to a righteous life and the fear of offending Him.  Satan's home is the fiery pit or as Jesus calls Satan's abode, Gehenna.  However, it is also the place of final punishment for the lost souls who reject God's sovereignty and over which God exercises ultimate power and authority.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.  30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted.  31 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 
Sparrows were the cheapest meat that one could buy at the market and were eaten by the poor.  Sparrows are worth hardly anything in material terms, and yet even the death of a sparrow is God's concern.  The point of Jesus' comparison between a person and a sparrow is if God cares for the sparrows that He created, then He will care even more about men and women who are His masterpiece of Creation.

32 Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.  But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
Jesus' warning is that salvation is only through the Messiah who is God the Son.  For us to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord to others is a condition of discipleship.  If we acknowledge Him before others, it is Jesus' solemn promise that He will stand as our divine Advocate before the judgment throne of God the Father.  When our life on earth comes to an end, and we are judged according to our faith and works, Jesus will give evidence on our behalf.  It is a promise you cannot afford to ignore because there is too much at stake; what is at stake is your life in eternity.

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2017 www.AgapeBibleStudy.com

Catechism references for this lesson (*indicated that Scripture is cited in the citation)

Jeremiah 20:7-18 (CCC 2584*)

Psalm 69:10 (CCC 584)

Romans 5:12 (CCC 400*, 402, 602*, 612*, 1008); 5:12-15 (CCC 388)

Matthew 10:28 (CCC 363*, 1034*); 10:29-31 (CCC 305), 10:32-33 (CCC 1816); 10:32 (CCC 14*, 2145*)