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the parishioners of Our Lady of Peace Parish, New Providence, New
Prophets just don’t know when to keep quiet! If they did they
would wouldn’t have such a hard time in life. Jeremiah is a good
example of a prophet with an unrestrained tongue. He was called by
God to be a prophet in unsettled times in Israel’s history. The
nation’s leaders had made political alliances as a way to secure
security. Jeremiah accused them of turning from trusting God to the
reliance on worldly powers. He prophesied the destruction of
Jerusalem and exile for the people. This put him at odds with his
contemporaries and especially the religious leaders. The priest
Pashur had him arrested and scourged for his seeming betrayal.
After his release Jeremiah continued his prophecy of doom,
destruction and exile. Things looked so bad for him that even his
friends were waiting for his fall. Just prior to today’s passage
Jeremiah voices his frustration, hurt and anger with God. "You duped
me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me
and you triumphed" (20:7). Jeremiah accused God of tricking him into
his ministry. He didn’t know what he was taking on when he said
"yes" to his mission. That’s a common experience, not only for those
called to be prophets, but for all who have said "yes" to God’s
call. It seems that in every parish where I preach there are people
doing ministry who say, "I never knew what I was getting into."
While that’s not always a complaint, it does express an involvement
in service they didn’t anticipate at the beginning.
But it certainly was a complaint for Jeremiah. The demands put on
him because of his prophetic ministry were severe. Who could blame
him for his complaint to God? (So numerous were these complaints
that his name is used to describe any complaint or lament –
"jeremiads"). Today’s passage doesn’t end with "jeremiads" though.
Did you notice the "but" Jeremiah speaks? That is where the passage
turns. After he voices the seeming hopelessness of his situation,
from somewhere down deep his faith interrupts. "But," the Lord is
We can pray for that faith today especially, if like Jeremiah, we
are at the end of our rope and our human resources are not enough,
or just worn out. The afflictions might come, as Jeremiah’s did, as
a consequence of doing or saying what is right and just. Or, we
might be suffering physical ailments, family breakdown, prejudice,
unemployment, addiction, etc. Like Jeremiah we know that, on our
own, we don’t have the strength or resources we need. Remember his
"But." With him we trust "the Lord is with me."
For Jeremiah, God is real and present, not detached from what he
is experiencing. God is also very personal, a friend to whom he can
even voice anger and disappointment; but also a trusted friend, upon
whom he can rely – and so can we.
In a few verses Jeremiah makes quite a spiritual journey! He
begins by voicing the opposition he is facing in his mission, even
the abandonment and whisperings of his friends. Then, he makes an
act of faith in a mighty God who will be his champion. This leads to
a hymn of praise for the God to whom he has entrusted his cause and
who, "has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the
Jeremiah’s reassurance, that God would stand with him and
strengthen him in his trials, is echoed in our gospel. Jesus, like a
loving parent, reassures his disciples that God will stand with them
in, what will be, a difficult discipleship.
I like the explanation Patricia Datchuck Sanchez gives to the
familiar quote: not one sparrow "falls to the ground without your
Father’s knowledge" ("Celebration: Preaching Resources, June 19,
2005). I always thought that meant God notices the deaths of even
the least of Jesus’ followers. Actually, a clearer translation would
be, "Not one sparrow lights upon the ground…." God doesn’t just know
when a sparrow dies, but each time it lights upon the ground. How
many times does a sparrow land and take off from the ground? Each
time God takes notice. Jesus isn’t just talking about sparrows, is
he? – but about each and every activity of his disciples. Especially
when we are acting as his emissaries in the world.
Today’s text is part of the Missionary Discourse in Matthew.
Jesus is sending his disciples out to preach to the world and he is
assuring them of God’s care for them in everything they do in his
name. God also knows how many hairs we have on our head. Again,
we’re not talking about the hairs on our head are we? It is another
assurance of God’s attentiveness to all of our lives. Jesus is
encouraging us to keep strong in faith through hard times caused by
the opposition our Christian values face in the world. Jeremiah and
Jesus assure us that God’s loving care will always be with us.
Fear in the face of suffering, especially from persecution, is
natural. Still, three times Jesus issues instructions about not
being afraid. "Do not be afraid." Matthew was addressing his
community’s present situation: there was reason to be afraid, they
were being persecuted for their faith. Ultimately, in the final
judgment, Jesus assures his followers, the truth will come out.
Meanwhile, they will endure suffering because they are his followers
and must still proclaim the truth openly – "proclaim on the
Disciples will not have it easy. Like Jeremiah we will have
crises of faith as we face the evils of our world. We live both by
faith because we do not see evil yielding to goodness and the hope
that, as Jesus says, "I will acknowledge you before my Father." He
assures us that, until the final reckoning, God is with us, knows us
more intimately than any human. What human, no matter how close,
knows the number of hairs on our head? God knows us, God is with us
and so we have hope as we stand up for Jesus and face the
difficulties life throws at us for being his disciples.
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
A POEM RESPONSE TO OUR
VOICE FOR THE PEOPLE
I didn’t choose this role–
No kudos there!
Rather I was chosen–
Not allowed to escape
It needed oceans of grace—
Certainly, I’ve used up more
Than you can comprehend
To bring me here!
Agonizing, always wanting to be
Of the people–
Finally, recognizing I am
A voice for the people.
For, who will speak for the lambs?
Will cast away karma and timidity
As unworthy refuges
For the power within.
As long as I stay there,
I’ll be all right–
Not trying to become
A voice over the people.
The lesson is—
Never give up hope!
As a voice for the people
I’ve become of the people!
-----Garth M. Stanton, from "On The Road To
Jerusalem: A Spiritual Journey in Poetry," 2008.
"Answer me, O Lord, for bounteous
is your kindness; in your great mercy turn toward me."Psalm 69: 17
It is summertime; time to play at the beach. However, for
farmworkers, the work goes on. Among farmworkers, heatstroke is the
leading cause of death, representing a rate nearly 20 times greater
than for U.S. civilian workers (Oxfam and the Farm Labor Organizing
Committee (FLOC) citing CDC 2011). Peter Millsaps from the Episcopal
Farm Workers Ministry has contacted us for a fundraising effort they
are having to give individual water carriers to farmworkers in three
eastern North Carolina counties.
Millsaps writes, "You may not know these compelling facts:
farmworkers often go without water for two hours at a time.
Additionally, there is no shade or place to rest for the workers as
they are constantly exposed to the warm temperatures of North
Carolina. These hard workers deserve some relief. The Episcopal
Farmworker Ministry wants to help these farmers with a simple tool.
A water carrier that contains insulation and can conveniently be
held with a belt loop. This simple solution can reduce the number of
workers who suffer from heat exhaustion. Our goal is to make this
"invisible" population visible and support their critical needs. As
a result we have started a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. We
are asking the community to join in supporting their simple request
for water while they work. Every $7.50 that we raise will allow us
to help one more farmworker. A small price for such a large impact.
Please go to:
100% of your donation will go for purchase of the water carriers.
Episcopal Farm Workers Ministry will take care of distribution.
PRAYER FOR FARMWORKERS:
Thank you to the millions of farmworkers for sustaining us
through your hard work in the fields and the factories. Thank you to
those who sacrifice time with family, physical and mental health to
pick fresh produce for all to eat. We honor your work and also your
culture, the richness that you bring to our communities, and the
motivation that you inspire to continue seeking a good life. Thank
you to the farmworkers who organize and take risks in demanding just
pay and fair treatment from growers and food corporations. We pray
that one day all farmworkers will have dignity in their work and
livelihood, and we will continue to work towards farmworker justice
until that day comes.
Director of Social
Sacred Heart Cathedral,
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
said to the Twelve:
all the hairs of your head are counted.
not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows."
Jesus assures us that God is with us, knows us more intimately
than any human. What human, no matter how close to us, knows the
number of hairs on our head? God knows us, God is with us and so we
can have hope as we face the difficulties life throws at us for
being his disciples
So we ask ourselves:
- What does it cost us to be a disciple of Jesus?
- How do we sense the closeness and support of God in those
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The use of the death penalty cannot really be
mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Johnny S. Parker #0311936 (On death row since 3/24/97)
- Rowland Hedgepath #0176701 (7/3/97)
- Leroy Mann #0255136 (7/15/97)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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