There is a little human way in us whereby we can imagine the worst and then we feel better when the worst does not happen. We can visualize the sky falling or the plane not being on time, or even worse, our not being on time for the plane. It happens to the best of us and so too to Jeremiah in today’s First Reading.
As is his vocation, Jeremiah has been speaking the word of the Lord to the people of Israel, calling them to reformation and a proper relationship with the God Who loves them. He is confronted, beaten and locked up by a temple official, Pashhur. In response, Jeremiah makes a prophecy about the future exile of Pashhur and his family.
The conclusion of this reading is not that everything turns out all right, except in one sense. Jeremiah breaks into a joyful song of praise and trust in the Lord who has called him to speak.
The Gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ encouragement to His twelve as He prepares to send them out. His theme in this section of the discourse is that they should not be afraid. Jesus tells them not to be afraid of the dark, not to be afraid of those who can kill, and do not be afraid of standing up for what they believe.
Listening to His words, the Apostles might get the picture that there is really something to be scared of and the more He tells them of the things about which not to be afraid, they begin to tremble.
The consolation is that Jesus affirms that they are so precious and important to Him. I am not sure they grow in confidence when Jesus tells them that they are worth more than many sparrows and that the hairs of their heads are numbered; what’s that?
Jesus has done all that He is inviting His followers to do, but what sustains them is not this little talk, these few words, but the whole of their relationship with them. He has been faithful to them in the past events of walking, healing, feeding and saving them. Words of accompaniment last but a short time. A personal and collective history of faithfulness will last through the times of fear and doubt.
None of us has any snapshots of the future, no maps, no sure winners. Faith and fear do go together. What we have is our pasts which are not strewn with pretty flowers either, but we have enough little inklings that we are precious and known by God. With this sense, we too are called, not to be afraid, that is not to be governed and paralyzed by fear. When Jesus says that we should be fearful, He is not saying we should not have human reactions to the unknown and dangers of our lives. We live by faith and not by terror; we know fear, but we learn to walk straight ahead into the mysterious and blessed dark. It is that darkness which will lead to God’s being seen.
“God is the strength of his people. In Him, we His chosen live in safety.” Psalm 28
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